• Codification
  • Retribution (eye for an eye)
  • Patriarchal
  • All Babylonians Subject to the law
  • King is above the law
  • Very harsh and cruel
  • Son gets hand cut off if strikes father, not mother
  • Doctor gets hand cut off if surgery goes wrong
  • Death for those who lie is court


  • Many laws similar to code of Hammurabi (killing, adultery and perjury are still forbidden)
  • Basis of Jewish and Christian faiths
  • Restitution to victim (civil court today)
  • Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai
  • Those who steal must repay the victim for goods stolen.
  • Democratic ideals in political and legal system
  • Limited democracy – citizenship limited to native-born men over age of 18; women, slaves and foreigners were excluded
  • Trials by jury of fellow citizens; could include 100s of people
  • Jury acted as judge
  • Charter; s.3 – right to vote
  • S. 11 guarantees right to trial by jury
  • Created a legal profession and trained scholars
  • Justinian Code – emperor Justinian had all the laws of the time collected and organized into one manageable code
  • Presumption of innocence and no one is above the law
  • Basis of modern day lawyers
  • Codes adopted
  1. BRITISH – Feudalism
  • It is a system of government where the king divides the land among his lord and nobles who will provide him with military service
  • The lords and nobles have vassals who do the work on the land, give produce to them and can provide military service
  • The king appointed judges who travel throughout England and listen to cases.
  • Judges met regularly in London to discuss cases and share experiences
  • The decisions that traveling judges made became the basis of English common law
  • It was a very fair system as it replaced the arbitrary judgments that lords had made over their vassals in the past.
  1. Precedent
  • a legal case establishing a principle or rule that a court utilizes when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.
  • A Precedent was created every time the decision about a case became common knowledge in the English legal community
  • Stare Decisis – stand by the decision; requires than a precedent be considered when ruling on a case with similar facts.
  • Initially precedents were unwritten
  • This system was considered to be an improvement over the right of a lord to judge cases however he chose
  • Appeals to decisions were allowed
  • Precedent introduces a degree of certainty in the law as lawyers can examine similar cases and expect a somewhat similar result.
  1. Case law
  • As the number of judges and cases increased, recording decisions became necessary
  • Cases began to be recorded and published in paper and electronic form
  • Now recorded cases are given a title called a citation to make it easy to find in a law library
  1. The Rule of Law
  • Many kings felt they were above the law but the Magna Carta in 1215 established that everyone was equal under the law and had to obey the law
  • Equality became important for the first time
  • People had legal rights
  • No person cold be imprisoned without a court appearance within a reasonable time (Habeas Corpus)
  • In Canada every dispute must be settled by peaceful means, either by discussion and negotiation or by due process in the courts
  • The Rule of Law brings order to people’s lives by preventing the use of violence and the abuse of human rights
  1. Statute Law
  • Parliament was created to help make laws and reduce the amount of power the king had
  • When common law and case law cannot provide answers, parliament makes laws to fill in the gaps
  • Members of the public could now read the laws and know what they said
  • Parliament is seen as the institution that represents the wishes of the people
  • This was an important step in the development of democracy
  • Canada’s substantive law represents common law decisions and statute laws passed by government
  • French civil code – rooted in Roman law
  • Quebec employs civil law system – civil code of Quebec
  • Judges base decisions on the code and interpretations of the code by scholars rather than precedent
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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