Civil Law: Major legal system that gives precedence to a systematic, written codification of general law.
- Civil law is the most widespread legal system in the world and is the primary legal system of countries such as France, Germany, Mexico, and Turkey.
- Historically, Civil Law in the Western world descended from Roman law and includes the Napoleonic Code.
- Note that while the United States maintains a codification of statutory laws, it is a Common Law nation. Interestingly, Louisiana is the only U.S. state with a mixed system, combining common law with its Civil, Napoleonic Code tradition.
- "Civil Law" in this sense encompasses both criminal law and "civil law" as the term is used in the U.S. (like torts and contracts).
Common Law: Major legal system that gives precedence to case law over legislation.
- The United States is a Common Law jurisdiction, which can be understood if you consider the priority given to the Federal courts' interpretation of Congressional legislation.
- Historically, Common Law is based on the English Common Law tradition. As a result, nations with Common Law systems are generally current or former British territories, including Canada (minus Quebec), Australia, Jamaica, and the United States (minus Louisiana).
- "Common Law" in this sense differs from the "common law" which refers to the body of law derived from judicial decisions, rather than statutes or constitutions.
See more on Civil Law, Common Law, and other legal systems on the Legal Systems page of this guide.
Intergovernmental Organizations: Organization composed primarily of sovereign states, or of other intergovernmental organizations, established by treaty or other agreement that acts as a charter creating the group.
- Also known as International Governmental Organizations or IGOs, examples include the United Nations, the European Union, OPEC, NATO, and World Bank.
- While the treaties and agreements that create IGOs are based on principles of public international law, some IGOs are rooted in supranational law, including the governing tribunals of the EU and the UN.
Supranational Law: Form of international law wherein sovereign nations submit to the judicial decisions of a common tribunal.
- In public international law sovereign states negotiate with each other, while supranational law involves a tribunal outside of and above the authority of any state.
- The major supranational tribunals are the European Union's European Court of Justice, the United Nations Security Council, and other U.N. organizations like the International Court of Justice.
- The European Union itself is considered a supranational political entity. America's pre-Constitution Articles of Confederation was a supranational agreement among thirteen independent states who submitted (theoretically) to the authority of a common governing body.
Transnational Law: Umbrella term for all law which regulates actions or events that transcend national frontiers, including but not limited to public and private international law.
- This term was coined by Professor Philip Jessup to counter the inadequacy of the term "international law," which is tied to public international law, wherein nations/states interact with other nations/states. (See Philip Jessup, Transnational Law, p. 2).
- Transnational Law is not an actual body of law, but a legal concept (like Comparative Law).
- A similar term is FCIL, or "Foreign, Comparative, and International Law," which describes the general area of legal concepts beyond domestic legal doctrines.