Characteristics of Common Law, Statute, and EU Law

The three sources of English law are common law, statutes, and EU law. Each of the three forms of law has distinct core characteristics that allow an individual to differentiate them. The two core characteristics of English law are its development from case law and the application of the concept of precedence. Additionally, common law operates on the presumption of fairness.

Case law constitutes court decisions that judges develop for future application as law in the absence of statute law provisions for the solution of particular problems in certain situations. This assertion means that if a judge finds no solution to a problematic situation among statutory provisions, common law allows him/her to use decisions from past cases with similar facts as the basis for his or her decision. The element of application of such past decisions is what constitutes the concept of precedence. The concept of precedence operates on the presumption that it is not fair to address similar facts disparately simply because events in question happen on different occasions.

In some cases, the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular case may bear unique differences from those in past cases. In such instances, the decision that a judge makes serves as a precedent to future cases. The decisions that judges apply to cases are often limited to the jurisdiction and influenced by the hierarchy of courts. Mostly, decisions made in higher courts are preferable when choosing a case that serves as a suitable precedent due to its binding nature. Decisions from lower courts are also as important, but they serve to persuade a judge’s inclination to a particular decision rather than forming the basis of the decision. There is no particular codification for this type of law as it applies on a case-to-case basis and it lacks the element of predictability. An exception exists in instances where the legislature chooses to make exceptions owing to the importance of concepts surrounding the cases. A good example of such an exception is the development of judicial review as part of the duties of courts.

Statutes are formal documents that legislative bodies governing countries, cities, and states develop and enact into law for application within particular jurisdictions. The main differences between statutes and case law lie in the makers of such laws and the element of codification in the case of statutes. The creation of statutes occurs in various stages, mostly involving discussions regarding focal issues by the legislative bodies and sometimes the approval of the executive branch of government. The European Union (EU) laws are a collection of treaties and directives that influence the domestic laws of member states. The laws are often secondary in nature except in instances involving international dealings cutting across member states, such as international trade and travel directives. The laws create uniformity in the region, especially in fundamental aspects that constitute the identity of the entire region and safeguard the autonomy of member states.

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