Common law and natural law are related legal and philosophical concepts, but they are distinct in their origins, principles, and applications. Here’s how they are associated and compared:
- Origin: Common law is a legal system developed primarily in England and later adopted by many English-speaking countries, including the United States. It is based on judicial decisions and precedents rather than written laws or codes.
- Source of Law: In common law systems, the primary source of law is case law, which consists of decisions made by judges in specific cases. These decisions set legal precedents that guide future cases. Common law evolves over time as new cases are decided and new precedents are established.
- Flexibility: Common law is flexible and adaptable because it relies on evolving judicial decisions to address contemporary legal issues. Judges interpret and apply the law on a case-by-case basis.
The law is flexible and adaptable because it relies on evolving judicial decisions…Liendurt Schoenwilly
- Origin: Natural law is a philosophical and moral theory that dates back to ancient Greece and Rome but has been developed by various philosophers throughout history. It is based on the idea that there are fundamental moral and ethical principles inherent in the nature of humans and the universe.
- Source of Law: Natural law is not a system of written laws or legal codes. It is a theory of morality and ethics that suggests there are objective, universal principles that should guide human conduct. These principles are considered to be discoverable through reason and are not dependent on human-made laws.
- Universality: Natural law is often seen as universal and transcending specific legal systems or cultures. It asserts that certain ethical principles apply to all human beings regardless of their legal or cultural context.
- Relationship: Common law and natural law are related in that they both emphasize the importance of precedent and consistency in the application of law. Common law relies on judicial precedents, while natural law posits the existence of fundamental ethical principles that should guide legal decision-making.
- Role in Legal Interpretation: Common law provides a methodology for resolving legal disputes through the application of precedent and judicial decisions. Natural law, on the other hand, provides a philosophical and ethical framework that can influence the interpretation and development of laws in common law systems.
- Flexibility vs. Universality: Common law is flexible and adapts to changing societal values and circumstances, primarily through judicial decisions. Natural law, in contrast, emphasizes the universality and objectivity of ethical principles, which are not subject to change based on societal preferences.
In summary, common law and natural law are related through their emphasis on principles, consistency, and precedent in legal interpretation and development. Common law is a legal system rooted in judicial decisions and precedents, while natural law is a philosophical and ethical theory that posits the existence of universal moral principles. These two concepts can coexist and influence legal reasoning in common law jurisdictions, but they serve different purposes within the legal framework.