1066 - Norman Conquest of England – pivotal event in Legal History Invasion by William Conqueror from Normandy
It largely removed the native ruling class, replacing it with a foreign, French speaking monarch, aristocracy and church which transformed the English language and culture. The Norman Conquest introduced the feudal system which greatly impacted the application of law.
Although the King was ultimately in charge of the country, parcels of land were controlled by barons and knights and the people who lived on those lands were under their control in terms of laws, taxes etc.
In 1154 King Henry II came to the throne. He noted that the feudal system caused inequities in decisions between the various lords and bishops. Henry wanted a more equitable, fair system Introduction of Magna Carta
Henry II created a unified system of law that was common the entire country. He eliminated local control and arbitrary remedies The son of Henry II, King John, was forced to sign a document called the “Magna Carta” in June of 1215. Also called the great charter, it established political and civil rights for the people of England, based on the rule of law. No one, not even the king, was above the law.
He appointed travelling judges to attend to courts throughout the country Those judges compared and discussed decisions for the purpose of creating fairness and predictability in the law
Those judges created the concept of PRECEDENT This is the idea that similar facts in a case should result in similar decisions
A Collective body of judicially interpreted principles that a court should consider when deciding a case
Precedent is judge made law All of the precedents combined form what we refer to as “COMMON LAW” Common Law is one of the main sources of law in Canada
Courts are not absolutely bound by precedents When good reason is shown judges can reinterpret and revise the law to adapt to political, legal and social changes. An example: Same-sex marriage law
We also use Statute Law in Canada in partnership with Common Law. Statutes are laws passed by the Federal Parliament or the Provincial Legislature. Common law and statute law work together Judges must interpret statute law and they use precedent to do so. Criminal Law example.
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Of course we cannot forget the French heritage in the development of the Canadian Legal System. The French system is based on the concepts of a written Code which encompasses all the Laws of the land The primary feature of Civil Law is that laws are written into a collection NOT determined by judges as in common law
Emporer Justinian Emporer Justinian ordered legal experts to consolidate all laws into a single book to avoid confusion This idea of a complete legal “Code” was used in France, particularly with Napolean
Legislation is the primary source of law, the court is not bound by precedent, judges have a limited ability to interpret law. Clearly, Canada has a strong French background and this idea of a Law “Code” was brought to Canada from France The French speakers did not want to give up their legal traditions in favour of common law
Quebec Act of 1774 allowed Quebec to keep many French traditions including their “Code” of Law Allowed Canada to become a “bijural” country All matters that are provincial in nature can be found in their Civil Code
The Civil Code of Québec is a general law that contains all of the basic provisions that govern life in society, namely the relationships among citizens and the relationships between people and property. It governs all civil rights, such as leasing items or property, sales contracts, etc. It also deals with family law, as in the case of matrimonial regimes.