Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Civil Code Definition:

A document in civil law jurisdictions that purports to be a compendium of the applicable law as it pertains to the citizen.

Related Terms: Civil Law, Canon Law, Roman Law

A term first adopted in France with the adoption of the first modern law code derived from but distinct from Roman law and Justinian's 533 A.D. codification.

image of Code CivilEnacted in France in 1804, later known also as the Code Napoleon, to honor the French political leader who vigorously promoted the Code. It is also known by the French title which simply inverts the words to Code Civil.

At the time it was published, the first Code Civil was clearly - and proudly by the French - distinguishable from the English common law system, the latter thought of as a disorganized, remote and elitist law, purporting to come from tribal customs yet the tribes themselves had long vanished, and thus abandoned to the whims of judicial interpretation; thus vulnerable to the irregular tugs of a strong social class system in England.

Those jurisdictions that purport to prefer codification - the comprehensive publication of applicable private law - are called civil law jurisdictions, such as Quebec and Louisiana, most of Europe and all of South America. The primary document that they publish, as a core statute, is called the Civil Code, and if often accompanied by a more technical document related to procedure, a code of civil procedure (code de procedure civile).


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