List of national legal systems

Legal systems of the world

The contemporary legal systems of the world are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each country is shaped by its unique history and so incorporates individual variations.[1] The science that studies law at the level of legal systems is called comparative law.

Both civil (also known as Roman) and common law systems can be considered the most widespread in the world: civil law because it is the most widespread by landmass, and common law because it is employed by the greatest number of people.[2][3][4]

Civil law

Shamash (the Babylonian sun god) hands King Hammurabi a code of law

The source of law that is recognized as authoritative is codifications in a constitution or statute passed by legislature, to amend a code. While the concept of codification dates back to the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon ca. 1790 BC, civil law systems derive from the Roman Empire and, more particularly, the Corpus Juris Civilis issued by the Emperor Justinian ca. AD 529. This was an extensive reform of the law in the Byzantine Empire, bringing it together into codified documents. Civil law was also partly influenced by religious laws such as Canon law and Islamic law.[5][6] Civil law today, in theory, is interpreted rather than developed or made by judges. Only legislative enactments (rather than legal precedents, as in common law) are considered legally binding.

Scholars of comparative law and economists promoting the legal origins theory usually subdivide civil law into four distinct groups:

  • French civil law: in France, the Benelux countries, Italy, Romania, Spain and former colonies of those countries;
  • German civil law: in Germany, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Estonia, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Serbia, Greece, Portugal and its former colonies, Turkey, and East Asian countries including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan (Republic of China);
  • Scandinavian civil law: in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. As historically integrated in the Scandinavian cultural sphere, Finland and Iceland also inherited the system.
  • Chinese law: a mixture of civil law and socialist law in use in the People's Republic of China.

However, some of these legal systems are often and more correctly said to be of hybrid nature:

The Italian civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865, introducing germanistic elements due to the geopolitical alliances of the time.[7] The Italian approach has been imitated by other countries including the Netherlands (1992), Argentina (2014), Brazil (2002) and Portugal (1966). Most of them have innovations introduced by the Italian legislation, including the unification of the civil and commercial codes.[8]

The Swiss civil code is considered mainly influenced by the German civil code and partly influenced by the French civil code. The civil code of the Republic of Turkey is a slightly modified version of the Swiss code, adopted in 1926 during Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's presidency as part of the government's progressive reforms and secularization.

A comprehensive list of countries that base their legal system on a codified civil law follows:

Country Description
Albania Albania Based on Napoleonic Civil law. The Civil Code of the Republic of Albania, 1991 [1]
Angola Angola Based on Portuguese civil law
Argentina Argentina The Spanish legal tradition had a great influence on the Civil Code of Argentina, basically a work of the Argentine jurist Dalmacio Vélez Sársfield, who dedicated five years of his life on this task. The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1871. Beyond the influence of the Spanish legal tradition, the Argentinian Civil Code was also inspired by the Draft of the Brazilian Civil Code, the Draft of the Spanish Civil Code of 1851, the Napoleonic code and the Chilean Civil Code. The sources of this Civil Code also include various theoretical legal works, mainly of the great French jurists of the 19th century. It was the first Civil Law that consciously adopted as its cornerstone the distinction between i. rights from obligations and ii. real property rights, thus distancing itself from the French model.

The Argentinian Civil Code was also in effect in Paraguay, as per a Paraguayan law of 1880, until the new Civil Code went in force in 1987.

In Argentina, this 1871 Civil Code remained in force until August 2015, when it was replaced by the new Código Civil y Comercial de la Nación.[9][10]

During the second half of the 20th century, the German legal theory became increasingly influential in Argentina.

Andorra Andorra Courts apply the customary laws of Andorra, supplemented with Roman law and customary Catalan law.[11]
Armenia Armenia Based on Napoleonic Civil law and traditional Armenian law.
Aruba Aruba Based on Dutch civil law
Austria Austria Based on Germanic Civil law. The Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (ABGB) of 1811
Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Based on German, French, Russian and traditional Azerbaijani Law
Belarus Belarus Based on Germanic Civil law
Belgium Belgium The Napoleonic Code is still in use, although it is heavily modified (especially concerning family law)
Benin Benin Based on Napoleonic Civil law.
Bolivia Bolivia Influenced by the Napoleonic Code
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina Influenced by Austrian law. The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Brazil Brazil Based on the German, Italian, French and Portuguese doctrine and codes. However, in 2004 the Federal Supreme Court (STF) have gained the authority to create binding precedents (súmulas vinculantes) about Constitutional norms whose validity, interpretation and eficacy are controversial among the judiciary organs or among these and the public administration. Such controversy must cause juridical unsafety and relevant multiplication of prossecutions about an identical theme for a binding precedent to be created. The STF is the only court in Brazil with such attribution.
Bulgaria Bulgaria Civil Law system influenced by Germanic and Roman law systems
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso Based on French civil law system
Burundi Burundi
Chad Chad Based on French civil law system
China People's Republic of China Based on Germanic Civil law with influences from the Soviet Socialist law from Soviet Union
Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Based on the Napoleonic Civil law.
Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo Based on Belgian civil law
Ivory Coast Cote d'Ivoire Based on French civil law system
Cambodia Cambodia
Cape Verde Cape Verde Based on Portuguese civil law
Central African Republic Central African Republic Based on French civil law system
Chile Chile Based on the Chilean Civil Law inspired by the Napoleonic Civil Law. The Spanish legal tradition exercised an especially great influence on the civil code of Chile. On its turn, the Chilean civil code influenced to a large degree the drafting of the civil codes of other Latin-American states. For instance, the codes of Ecuador (1861) and Colombia (1873) constituted faithful reproductions of the Chilean code, but for very few exceptions. The compiler of the Civil Code of Chile, Venezuelan Andrés Bello, worked for its completion for almost 30 years, using elements, of the Spanish law on the one hand, and of other Western laws, especially of the French one, on the other. Indeed, it is noted that he consulted and used all of the codes that had been issued till then, starting from the era of Justinian.

The Civil Code came into effect on 1 January 1857. The influence of the Napoleonic code and the Law of Castile of the Spanish colonial period (especially the Siete Partidas), is great; it is observed however that e.g. in many provisions of property or contract law, the solutions of the French code civil were put aside in favor of pure Roman law or Castilian law.

Colombia Colombia Based on the Chilean Civil Law. Civil code introduced in 1873. Nearly faithful reproduction of the Chilean civil code
Costa Rica Costa Rica Based on the Napoleonic Civil Law. First Civil Code (a part of the General Code or Carrillo Code) came into effect in 1841; its text was inspired by the South Peruvian Civil Code of Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz. The present Civil Code went into effect 1 January 1888, and was influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Spanish Civil Code of 1889 (from its 1851 draft version).
Croatia Croatia Based on the Germanic Civil Law. Croatian Law system is largely influenced by German and Austrian law systems. It is significantly influenced by the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire from 1811, known in Croatia as "General Civil Law" ("Opći građanski zakon"). OGZ was in force from 1853[12] to 1946. The Independent State of Croatia, a Nazi-controlled puppet state that was established in 1941 during World War II, used the OGZ as a basis for the 1943 "Base of the Civil Code for the Independent State of Croatia" ("Osnova građanskoga zakona za Nezavisnu Državu Hrvatsku"). After the War, Croatia become a member of the Yugoslav Federation which enacted in 1946 the "Law on immediate voiding of regulations passed before April 6, 1941 and during the enemy occupation" ("Zakon o nevaženju pravnih propisa donesenih prije 6. travnja 1941. i za vrijeme neprijateljske okupacije"). By this law OGZ was declared invalid as a whole, but implementation of some of its legal rules was approved. During the post-War era, the Croatian legal system become influenced by elements of the socialist law. Croatian civil law was pushed aside, and it took norms of public law and legal regulation of the social ownership. After Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, the previous legal system was used as a base for writing new laws. "The Law on Obligations" ("Zakon o obveznim odnosima") was enacted in 2005.[13] Today, Croatia as a European union member state implements elements of the EU acquis into its legal system.
Cuba Cuba Influenced by Spanish and American law with large elements of Communist legal theory.
Curaçao Curaçao Based on Dutch Civil Law.
Czech Republic Czech Republic Based on Germanic civil law. Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68–89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989). The new Civil Code of the Czech Republic was introduced in 2014.
Denmark Denmark Based on North Germanic law. Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law.
Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Based on the Napoleonic Code
Ecuador Ecuador Based on the Chilean civil law. Civil code introduced in 1861.
El Salvador El Salvador
Estonia Estonia Based on German civil law.
Finland Finland Based on Nordic law.[14]
France France Based on Napoleonic code (code civil of 1804)
Egypt Egypt Based on Napoleonic civil law and Islamic law.
Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea
Ethiopia Ethiopia
Gabon Gabon Based on French civil law system
Guinea Guinea Based on French civil law system, customary law, and decree[14]
Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau Based on Portuguese civil law
Georgia (country) Georgia
Germany Germany Based on Germanic civil law. The Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch of 1900 ("BGB"). The BGB is influenced both by Roman and German law traditions.
Greece Greece Based on Germanic civil law. The Greek civil code of 1946, highly influenced by traditional Roman law and the German civil code of 1900 (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch); the Greek civil code replaced the Byzantine–Roman civil law in effect in Greece since its independence (Νομική Διάταξη της Ανατολικής Χέρσου Ελλάδος, Legal Provision of Eastern Mainland Greece, November 1821: 'Οι Κοινωνικοί Νόμοι των Αειμνήστων Χριστιανών Αυτοκρατόρων της Ελλάδος μόνοι ισχύουσι κατά το παρόν εις την Ανατολικήν Χέρσον Ελλάδα', 'The Social [i.e. Civil] Laws of the Dear Departed Christian Emperors of Greece [referring to the Byzantine Emperors] alone are in effect at present in Eastern Mainland Greece')
Guatemala Guatemala Based on Napoleonic civil law. Guatemala has had three Civil Codes: the first one from 1877, a new one introduced in 1933, and the one currently in force, which was passed in 1963. This Civil Code has suffered some reforms throughout the years, as well as a few derogations relating to areas which have subsequently been regulated by newer laws, such as the Code of Commerce and the Law of the National Registry of Persons. In general, it follows the tradition of the Roman-French system of civil codification.

Regarding the theory of 'sources of law' in the Guatemalan legal system, the 'Ley del Organismo Judicial' recognizes 'the law' as the main legal source (in the sense of legislative texts), although it also establishes 'jurisprudence' as a complementary source. Although jurisprudence technically refers to judicial decisions in general, in practice it tends to be confused and identified with the concept of 'legal doctrine', which is a qualified series of identical resolutions in similar cases pronounced by higher courts (the Constitutional Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Amparo', and the Supreme Court acting as a 'Tribunal de Casación') whose theses become binding for lower courts.

Haiti Haiti Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Honduras Honduras
Hungary Hungary Based on Germanic, codified Roman law with elements from Napoleonic civil law.
Iceland Iceland Based on North Germanic law. Germanic traditional laws and influenced by Medieval Norwegian and Danish laws.
India India (only State of Goa, and Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) Based on Portuguese civil law
Italy Italy Based on Germanic civil law, with elements of the Napoleonic civil code; civil code of 1942 replaced the original one of 1865
Japan Japan Based on Germanic civil law. Japanese civil code of 1895.
Latvia Latvia Based on Napoleonic and German civil law, as it was historically before the Soviet occupation. While general principles of law are prerequisites in making and interpreting the law, case law is also regularly applied to present legal arguments in courts and explain application of law in similar cases. Civil law largely modeled after Napoleonic code mixed with strong elements of German civil law. Criminal law retains Russian and German legal traditions, while criminal procedure law has been fully modeled after practice accepted in Western Europe. Civil law of Latvia enacted on 1937.
Lebanon Lebanon Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Lithuania Lithuania Modeled after Dutch civil law
Luxembourg Luxembourg Based on Napoleonic civil law.
Libya Libya Based on Napoleonic civil law, with Ottoman, Italian, and Egyptian sources
Macau Macau Based on the Portuguese civil law; also influenced by the law of the PRC
Mauritius Mauritius
Mexico Mexico Based on Napoleonic civil law."The origins of Mexico's legal system are both ancient and classical, based on the Roman and French legal systems, and the Mexican system shares more in common with other legal systems throughout the world (especially those in Latin America and most of continental Europe) ..."[15]
Mongolia Mongolia Based on Germanic civil law.
Montenegro Montenegro Based on Napoleonic and German civil law. First: the General Property Code for the Principality of Montenegro of 1888, written by Valtazar Bogišić. Present: the Law on Obligations of 2008.
Mozambique Mozambique Based on Portuguese civil law
Netherlands Netherlands Based on Napoleonic code with German law influence
Nepal Nepal Based on Civil Code
Norway Norway Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law, based on North Germanic law. King Magnus VI the Lawmender unified the regional laws into a single code of law for the whole kingdom in 1274. This was replaced by Christian V's Norwegian Code of 1687.
Panama Panama
Paraguay Paraguay The Paraguayan Civil Code in force since 1987 is largely influenced by the Napoleonic Code and the Argentinian Code
Peru Peru Based on civil law system; accepts compulsory International Court of Justice ICJ jurisdiction with despotic and corrupting reservations;
Poland Poland The Polish Civil Code in force since 1965
Portugal Portugal Influenced by the Napoleonic Code and later by the German civil law
Taiwan Taiwan (Republic of China) Influenced by German Civil Code. Enacted in 1931.
Romania Romania Civil Code came into force in 2011. Based on the Civil Code of Quebec, but also influenced by the Napoleonic Code and other French-inspired codes (such as those of Italy, Spain and Switzerland)[16]
Russia Russia Civil Law system descendant from Roman Law through Byzantine tradition. Heavily influenced by German and Dutch norms in 1700–1800s. Socialist-style modification in 1900s, and Continental European Law influences since 1990s.
Rwanda Rwanda Mixture of Belgian civil law and English common law
São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé e Príncipe Based on Portuguese civil law
Serbia Serbia First: the Civil Code of Principality of Serbia of 1844, written by Jovan Hadžić, was influenced by the Austrian Civil Code (Allgemeines bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). Present: The Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) was a model for the Law on Obligations of 1978.
Slovakia Slovakia Descended from the Civil Code of the Austrian Empire (1811), influenced by German (1939–45) and Soviet (1947/68–89) legal codes during occupation periods, substantially reformed to remove Soviet influence and elements of socialist law after the Velvet Revolution (1989).
Slovenia Slovenia A Civil Law system influenced mostly by Germanic and Austro-Hungarian law systems
South Korea South Korea Based on German civil law system. Also largely influenced by Japanese civil law which itself modelled after German one. Korean Civil Code was introduced 1958 and fully enacted by 1960.
Spain Spain Influenced by the Napoleonic Code, it also has some elements of Spain's legal tradition, starting with the Siete Partidas, a major legislative achievement from the Middle Ages. That body of law remained more or less unchanged until the 19th century, when the first civil codes were drafted, merging both the Napoleonic style with the Castilian traditions.
Suriname Suriname Based on Dutch civil law
Sweden Sweden Scandinavian-North Germanic civil law. Like all Scandinavian legal systems, it is distinguished by its traditional character and for the fact that it did not adopt elements of Roman law. It assimilated very few elements of foreign laws whatsoever. The Napoleonic Code had no influence in codification of law in Scandinavia. The historical basis of the law of Sweden, just as for all Nordic countries, is North Germanic law. Codification of the law started in Sweden during the 18th century, preceding the codifications of most other European countries. However, neither Sweden, nor any other Nordic state created a civil code of the kind of the Code Civil or the BGB.
Switzerland Switzerland The Swiss Civil Code of 1908 and 1912 (obligations; fifth book)
Syria Syria Based on Napoleonic civil law.
East Timor Timor-Leste Based on Portuguese civil law
Turkey Turkey Modeled after the Swiss civil law (Zivilgesetzbuch) of 1907.
Ukraine Ukraine Civil Code of Ukraine of 2004
United States United States – Louisiana Law in the state of Louisiana is based on French and Spanish civil law

Federal courts and 49 states use the legal system based on English common law (see below), which has diverged somewhat since the mid-nineteenth century in that they look to each other's cases for guidance on issues of first impression and rarely, if ever, look at contemporary cases on the same issue in the UK or the Commonwealth.

Uruguay Uruguay
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Represents an evolution of Soviet civil law. Overwhelmingly strong impact of the Communist legal theory is traceable.
Vietnam Vietnam Communist legal theory and French civil law
Venezuela Venezuela Civil law