The importance of civil law

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What is civil law? Well, according to one of its earliest practitioners, "It is that which neither influence can affect, nor power interrupt, nor money corrupt. And if it were repressed or improperly observed, no one would feel safe for anything." The Roman statesman Cicero uttered those famous words more than 2000 years ago. Today, more than 60% of the world's countries have some form of civil law. In fact, it is generally considered a precursor to building stable societies where individuals can pursue their ambitions free from the constraints of oppression and tyranny. If you want to study and have a career within this noble tradition, here's what you need to know about civil law.

What is the difference between criminal and civil law? 

A civil law attorney in Inca (in spanish: abogado especialista en derecho civil en Inca) explains: Criminal law deals with actions that are considered threatening or harmful to the property, safety and moral well-being of individuals or the state. Examples include robbery, assault or the dissemination of dangerous or threatening information. Its primary function is to punish behavior that the state has deemed illegal. In other words, it enforces an objective set of laws that all citizens must obey.


Civil law is different. Instead of focusing on the relationship between the state and the individual, it deals with private relationships between members of a community. For example, libel, slander, and breach of contract are all civil matters. Unlike criminal cases, which are prosecuted by the state, civil cases are initiated by a private party, called a plaintiff in legal terms. Cases are usually decided by a judge and any relief can only be monetary. A civil court judge does not have the power to impose custodial sentences. 


Finally, prosecutors do not need to prove their case "beyond a reasonable doubt." Rather, "a preponderance of evidence" is sufficient to seal a civil conviction. Under the preponderance standard, "the burden of proof is met when there is a greater than 50% probability that the claim is true. "


Why is civil law important? 

"Basically, civil law is about conflict resolution, ensuring that disputes between individuals do not escalate into a violent confrontation" A lawyer in Inca mentions to us (Nos comenta un abogado en Inca).

It encourages cooperation between members of society, discouraging exploitative behavior and unethical business practices. Without civil law, larger businesses could exploit smaller businesses by not paying for promised goods or services. At the same time, a tenant would have no recourse if his or her former landlord simply refused to return a security deposit without an adequate explanation. 


Defamation cases play a critical role in maintaining the delicate balance between freedom of expression and individual rights. It encourages the media to report accurate information and allows individuals to challenge any story they believe to be false. In 2019, a judge awarded Gregory Rush nearly AUS $2 million in compensation after Australia's Daily Telegraph published stories accusing the actor of behaving inappropriately with a co-star. A judge described the stories as "pieces of reckless and irresponsible tabloid journalism of the worst kind." In cases like this, large payouts are undoubtedly significant. However, plaintiffs are often more concerned with restoring something that money cannot buy; their reputation and good standing in society.


Areas within civil law

Once you've qualified as a lawyer, you'll need to decide which area to specialize in. Here's a quick look at four of the main fields within civil law.  


Generally, contracts are self-regulating. They are legally binding documents that anticipate potential disputes and outline a set of obligations for each party. 


Problems arise when one party fails to live up to its side of the bargain. Alternatively, both parties could interpret an element of the contract differently. In addition, there is always the possibility that an unforeseen event will affect the ability of one party to fulfill its promises. 


Tort law deals with civil torts. Tort disputes generally boil down to issues relating to duty of care, negligence and liability. In the United Kingdom, the first case in which a statutory duty of care was established was in 1932. It involved a woman who became ill after swallowing a decomposed snail that had found its way into a bottle of ginger beer. The bottle was opaque, so neither the women nor the merchant selling the bottle could see what was inside. After careful consideration, the legal experts decided that the manufacturer of the bottle was ultimately liable. This introduced a new legal precedent that UK manufacturers had a duty to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions that could harm others.  


Property law is unique in that it focuses on the legal relationship of people to objects. A property lawyer deals with a wide range of issues, such as the transfer or purchase of land. They also help resolve disputed property issues. This might involve a dispute over who has the right to a family heirloom, or whether the old saying "finders keepers" has any legal basis. For example, Spanish property law states that anything found within the land belongs to the owner, even if the object has been there for hundreds of years. 


Family law is a delicate area of civil law that attempts to resolve domestic disputes before they go to court. Divorce settlements are a common problem within family law, along with other important agreements, such as child care and visitation rights. Family lawyers also represent people seeking to adopt a child and parents seeking to remove their children from protective care. They are also involved in paternity disputes, domestic abuse cases and juvenile law.

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