Resolving Private Disputes With the Common Law Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Law in Resolving Disputes among Private Citizens

Today, the common law as understood in the United States means the body of rules and principles that have been established over the centuries through countless judicial decisions that set precedents for future cases of a similar nature. Although the common law can change over time in response to social, political and economic forces, this body of law has provided a consistent framework in which disputes can be more easily and efficiently resolved by avoiding the need to "reinvent the wheel" every time a controversy over property or rights occurs. This paper reviews the relevant literature to determine the effectiveness of the common law in resolving disputes among private citizens, followed by a summary of the research and important findings concerning these issues in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

According to the definition provided by Black's Law Dictionary (1990), the common law is "distinguished from statutory law [and] comprises the body of those principles and rules of action & #8230; which derived their authority solely from usages and customs of immemorial antiquity, or from the judgments and decrees of the courts recognizing, affirming, and enforcing such usages and customs" (p. 276). As Scott (2007) points out, though, "Any reliable definition of the common law is a description of what it is and where it came from for, attempts to define the common law in a dictionary sense will only gloss over the important nuances that characterize it" (p. 184).

Therefore, beyond Black's definition, it is also important to understand the antecedents of the common law and its constituent elements. In this regard, Scott advises that, "The term common law came to mean in England the body of rational legal principles which were declared and administered by the King's Judges as opposed to the special customs or privileges of any county or borough" (2007, p. 185). In other words, the common law provided equity for private citizens in an era of privilege. There were other important sources of the common law, though, that are represented in modern interpretations as well. For instance, Scott adds that, "The origin is borne out of the Church, natural law, customs, and King's Law. The common law courts were charged with the duty of deciding cases in accord with all four of these categories" (2007, p. 185).

Because the common law has such a lengthy history in the Western world, many authorities maintain that it can be used to good effect in the resolution of dispute between private citizens. In this regard, Bogus (2011) reports that, "Private disputes should not be resolved by legislatures, where decisions are influenced by politics and…

Sources Used in Document:


Black's law dictionary. (1990). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Bogus, C.T. (2001). Why lawsuits are good for America: Disciplined democracy, big business, and the common law. New York: New York University Press.

Schill, S.W. (2012, Annual). International arbitrators as system-builders. Proceedings of the Annual Meeting-American Society of International Law, 106, 295-301.

Scott, S. (2007, December). The impact of common law on judicial decision making.

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