Civil law is an international law system originating from continental Europe and adapted in much of the western world. Civil law covers private lawsuits as well as criminal law and is governed by a body of civil law known as customary law. Civil law is characterized by the presence of a neutral forum, the civil courts, where cases are resolved. This body of law is based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which non-state defendants are protected from state action even when those state officials responsible for those acts are nationals of that country. Civil law systems may be organized around religion, nationality, tribe, social grouping or any other such group.
A civil law court usually decides cases involving associations of individuals or companies, corporations, and public bodies. The courts use a common law basis for deciding disputes: the courts try disputes according to rules that have been universally accepted as legal principles. The system provides extensive protection to personal rights and is based on the assumption that everyone has a right to an equal degree of legal status. Civil law courts can either operate immediately, or through subordinate courts that exercise jurisdiction over specific cases.
Historically, civil law was developed by the developments and debates among the ruling elite during the periods of Renaissance. These were the days when legal systems based on common law systems were established. During the modern era, most states used a common law system and the federal government imposed several executive orders that bind executive agencies to comply with the rulings of several circuit courts across the country.
Civil law courts are designed to give effect to the decisions reached by the courts. It follows that if a dispute arises out of one person’s property (land or buildings), his rights become a claim to the whole property. For example, if a builder builds a house on someone else’s land, his rights to that property become binding obligations to respect the agreement made. The same is true for other types of property claims such as personal injury claims. Civil codes include substantive laws that define the relationship between a party and the other party. Civil law courts also deal with private wrongs or breach of contract claims.
A distinction is between civil and criminal law. Unlike criminal law, which requires a defendant to be proven guilty, a plaintiff in civil law has the burden of proving both negligence and the action is not entitled to recovery. In the United States, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.
The judicial branch of government protects and governs the civil law through the courts. Many times, a plaintiff has to file a civil suit in order to sue a government entity. The three branches of government are executive, legislative, and judicial. A person’s rights are protected in criminal and civil cases, but the same is not true for all circumstances.
In criminal court, the plaintiff is required to prove two things: proof of guilt and proof of damages. In civil law, proof of damages and a preponderance of the evidence are all required for a jury to decide the case. The plaintiff does not have to prove guilt in a criminal proceeding. If a plaintiff can prove both elements of a crime (guilt and knowledge) in a civil suit, then he has a strong case for pursuing a claim against the entity accused of wrongdoing.
Common examples of cases that require the services of a civil court include: wrongful acts, such as assault and battery; negligence, such as a bus driver killing a pedestrian; corporate wrongs, such as asbestos poisoning; and commercial wrongs, such as pollution caused by defective products. Often, people involved in such disputes will hire an attorney to represent them because they do not have access to a lawyer experienced in resolving such disputes. An attorney’s success in such cases is contingent upon the quality of his team of attorneys, his success in assembling a strong case, and the resources he has at his disposal to investigate and bring to the attention of the courts who will ultimately decide the case. A civil court trial is often less costly than a criminal trial and will require less preparation on the part of the defense.