Civil Law

Civil Law in the United States

Law concerned with private rights and remedies. Civil law is different from criminal law in that it focuses on transactions of a private kind. Criminal law, on the other hand, prescribes and proscribes behavior in an attempt to protect society from harm. The role of the government is more limited in the area of civil law. The government’s principal responsibility is to provide an impartial means for the resolution of private disputes. The government may be either a plaintiff or defendant in a civil action but typically is not a party at all; in criminal cases, the government will always function as a prosecutor. There are a broad range of disputes that fall under the civil law category, but among the more numerous are domestic relations, contract violations, and a variety of liability matters. See some Civil Law definitions in the legal Dictionaries.

Analysis and Relevance

Civil law regulates conduct that is essentially private. Civil law allows government to provide a forum for dispute resolution as well as a mechanism for the enforcement of civil judgments. Government’s role in the enforcement of civil judgments, in turn, protects the integrity of private transactions. The processes established under civil law take the place of private means of dispute resolution. In doing so, civil law ensures that disputes will be settled in a lawful and peaceful manner. Unlike matters of criminal law, the government, when not a party to a case, has no interest in which party prevails in a civil suit. Rather, civil law protects the public interest by facilitating dispute resolution. Under certain circumstances, actions involving both civil and criminal law may arise. Violation of a criminal law can be punished. At the same time, the violator could be subjected to a civil action arising out of the same act in an effort to recover personal or property damages suffered by the victim or to implement government policy.

Civil Law System

This term is generally used to designate the Roman jurisprudence, jus civile Romanorum. In its most extensive sense, the term Roman law comprises all those legal rules and principles which were in force among the Romans, without reference to the time when they were adopted. For more detailed information about the Civil Law System, see here and about the Common Law System, see here.

Civil Law in Foreign Legal Encyclopedias

For starting research in the law of a foreign country:

Link Description
Civil Law Civil Law in the World Legal Encyclopedia.
Civil Law Civil Law in the European Legal Encyclopedia.
Civil Law Civil Law in the Asian Legal Encyclopedia.
Civil Law Civil Law in the UK Legal Encyclopedia.
Civil Law Civil Law in the Australian Legal Encyclopedia.

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Concept of Civil Law

In the U.S., in the context of Judiciary power and branch, Civil Law has the following meaning: In contrast to criminal law which deals with harms against the state or crimes against persons punishable by the state, civil law deals with disputes (usually between private parties) involving issues of private rights. Thus, civil law stipulates codes of behavior related to contractual relationships between groups and/or individuals. In contrast to common law, civil law also refers to the body of law developed from Roman law and used in continental Europe and most former colonies of European nations. The basis of law in civil-law jurisdictions is statute, not custom and precedent. (Source of this definition of Civil Law : University of Texas)

Civil Law


See Also

  • Judiciary Power
  • Judiciary Branch


Notes and References

  1. Definition of Civil Law from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

See Also

Criminal Law (Judicial Function) Dispute Resolution (Judicial Function) Litigation (Judicial Function).

Civil Law in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Civil Law in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: Law based upon detailed codification of permissible and non-permissible activities; world’s most common form of legal system.

Civil Law in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Civil Law in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: The body of law concerned with private rights of individuals such as a breach of contract or personal injury.

Civil Law: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Civil Law. This part provides references, in relation to Civil Law, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Civil Law by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Civil Law and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Civil Law or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Civil Law and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Civil Law. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Civil Law should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Civil Law when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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