Law generated from court cases and judicial decisions.
Common law, or judge-made law, is generated from a succession of judicial decisions or precedents. In common-law systems, courts are bound by the rule called stare decisis, or “let the precedent stand.” In the United States, common law is distinguished from equity law, which is based on reasoning about what is fair or equitable. It also differs from law based on statutes enacted by legislatures.
The Supreme Court building, Washington, D.C.
Common-law systems are contrasted with civil-law systems found on the continent of Europe and elsewhere, which are based on legal codes. Some of these systems are based on the Code Civil (“civil law”) drafted in Napoleonic France, derived partially from Roman law
The Supreme Court is a common-law court. Its decisions are the basis of constitutional law
In United States v. Hudson and Goodwin
The common-law process of following precedent in making decisions has allowed the federal judiciary to assume the position it holds in the U.S. constitutional plan. When Chief Justice John Marshall rendered the key decision in Marbury v. Madison
Farnsworth, E. Allan. An Introduction to the Legal System of the United States. 3d ed. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceana Publications, 1996. Friedman, Lawrence M. A History of American Law. 3d ed. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Hale, M., and C. Gray. The History of the Common Law in England. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002. Plucknett, Theodore Frank Thomas. A Concise History of the Common Law. 5th ed. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2001. Schweber, Howard. The Creation of American Common Law, 1850-1880: Technology, Politics, and the Construction of Citizenship. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
British background to U.S. judiciary
Common law, federal
Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins
Hudson and Goodwin, United States v.
Marbury v. Madison
Rule of law
Swift v. Tyson