civil law

noun, often capitalized C&L

Definition of civil law

1 : Roman law especially as set forth in the Justinian code
2 : the body of private law developed from Roman law and used in Louisiana and in many countries outside the English-speaking world
3 : the law established by a nation or state for its own jurisdiction
4 : the law of civil or private rights

Examples of civil law in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

As for children born out of wedlock, courts, especially those operating in the civil law tradition, deduced paternity from a man’s actions or public reputation. The Conversation,, "Who’s is your daddy? It’s not all about DNA," 16 June 2019 There is one noteworthy omission: federal asset forfeiture petitions, which are handled through the U.S. Attorney’s office and subjected to a separate set of civil laws. Annie Sciacca, The Mercury News, "From 2015 to ’18, Contra Costa cops seized $1.1 million from people not charged with a crime," 14 June 2019 Absent the appropriate corporate structures and legal walls under civil law, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris ruled that victims did have a right to pursue parish assets. Tom Corrigan, WSJ, "Catholic Church Used Bankruptcy for Sexual-Assault Cases. Now Others Are Following Suit.," 27 Dec. 2018 Criminal law and civil law feature different burdens of proof. Michael Mccann,, "Could Gareon Conley Legally Prove That Rape Allegation Caused Draft Slide, Financial Harm?," 12 July 2018 The ruling will have ripple effects beyond the civil law courts, where Jameson filed his case. Greg Moran,, "State high court strikes down rule requiring poor to pay for own court reporter in civil courts," 6 July 2018 The United States is a country based on civil law with the principle of separation of church and state found in our Constitution. Said Ahmed-zaid, idahostatesman, "Legislature’s anti-sharia law bill is unnecessary and discriminatory | Idaho Statesman," 9 Feb. 2018 According to the ancient Salian Frankish civil law code from around 500 A.D, Prince Michael's only daughter is excluded from the line of succession. Deutsche Welle, USA TODAY, "German Prince Georg-Constantin dies in riding accident in Britain," 14 June 2018 Lavery spent 16 years in civil law private practice, specializing in personal injury insurance defense, pharmaceutical litigation and product liability. Matthew Glowicki, The Courier-Journal, "Here's who a Louisville judicial group wants as next Jefferson Circuit Court judge," 23 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'civil law.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of civil law

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Statistics for civil law

Last Updated

3 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for civil law

The first known use of civil law was circa 1500

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More Definitions for civil law

civil law


English Language Learners Definition of civil law

: laws that deal with the rights of people rather than with crimes

civil law

noun, often capitalized C&L

Legal Definition of civil law

1 : Roman law especially as set forth in the Code of Justinian
2 : the body of law developed from Roman law and used in Louisiana, in continental Europe, and in many other countries outside of the English-speaking world including especially those that were colonized by countries of continental Europe — compare common law

Note: Although Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. whose law is based entirely on civil law, remnants of civil law remain in other states (as Texas and California) in which countries of continental Europe had a strong influence.

3 : the law established by a nation or state for its own jurisdiction
4 : the law that applies to private rights especially as opposed to the law that applies to criminal matters — compare criminal law

More from Merriam-Webster on civil law

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with civil law Encyclopedia article about civil law

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