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Discover How Common Laws Interacts with Constitutional Law

Interaction W Constitutional Law

Common law is primarily based on precedents that are set by prior court cases with similar circumstances. This is opposed to statutory law that is formulated by a series of formal rules and regulations enacted by the Government. Oftentimes, common law will interact with other systems of law to form decisions.

For example, in an area such as contract law, most of these regulations will exist in common law, not legislation. However, in an area such as the sale of international goods, there is legislation that will define the boundaries of the regulations. When a case is brought before a judge, though, it will generally be ruled by a combination of this legislation and past decisions. These cases will be decided primarily by applying past precedent by analogy.

Common law will also interact with Constitutional law when a court makes important decisions. The U.S. Constitution is a document that broadly outlines the powers of the Government in making laws. Common law is basically how the courts will interpret these laws to make decisions.

Common law mostly affects decisions that are made in State courts, and all of these decisions must be made within the scope of the Constitution. Constitutional law does not grant State courts the power to declare a law as unconstitutional. However, they do have the power to create new law to a certain extent.

When a judge rules on a case of first impression, the judge is essentially making new laws to which subsequent cases with similar circumstances will be bound. A case of first impression refers to one where the circumstances are so unique that there is no existing precedent that will influence the judge's decision. In this case, the judge will examine the facts of the case in accordance with Constitutional law in order to make a decision.

Many of the rules and regulations within Constitutional law are based on previously established common law. Codification, which is the process of creating a statute that will explicitly state a rule or regulation to make law, is a process that is heavily based on the precedent of common law. The common law will interpret Constitutional law in order to make it applicable to individual cases.

An example that is sometimes used is that of the First Amendment to the Constitution. This Amendment states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". To actually understand this clause of the Constitution, one must turn to the precedents set by common law to see how it is applied in specific cases.

NEXT: Learn About NJ As A Common Law State

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