the Common Law

  • The common law developed in England, and is made up of decisions through the courts and the judges.
  • It evolved by judges looking back on previous decisions to determine what the law should be.
  • King Henry II established itinerant judges in 1154 to travel areas of Great Britain, recording the cases that they presided over and the decisions that they made.
  • Then, once the judges had all returned, these were discussed and compiled. From thereon, all future decisions would be made in reference to the previous cases recorded by the judges.

For example, if one judge encountered a case where a person’s hen laid an egg in a neighbour’s yard, and there was a dispute over to whom the egg belonged to, he would record his decision (that it belongs to the owner of the chicken) for future judges. Then, if another judge encountered a similar case, like if a farmer’s cow gave birth in another’s field, then the judge would say that the calf belonged to the owner of the cow, based on the previous decision.

This became the principle of precedent.

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