Monday, October 14, 2019

Scandinavian Civil Law

Scandinavian Civil Law Introduction to Scandinavian Civil Law Scandinavian civil law applies to the five Scandinavian countries, namely Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland and Norway. Historically, it has it roots set in Germanic law, but Scandinavian civil law is now more closely akin to the civil law of the common law countries such as the UK and Australia. History of Scandinavian Civil Law Scandinavian civil law has not always been recognised as a unified system of law for the five Scandinavian countries. Until the early 9th century, Scandinavian civil law did not exist as a concept at all; instead, the five nations all had their own independent legal and administrative systems. Despite the five countries having their own systems, legally, they were all based on similar theories and it was not long until they started to merge into one body of Scandinavian civil law. Initially, Scandinavian civil law was entirely unwritten; it was based on customs and social development that gradually became a codified system. The customary type of Scandinavian civil law was managed by group meetings which could be attended by all men. This system of Scandinavian civil law worked well until the 11th century when the rules became too difficult to manage and some basic laws were codified into a written text. Generally, Scandinavian civil law was put together by private individuals, although increasingly the king became involved. By the 13th century, the body of Scandinavian law was largely complete in its current form. Scandinavian civil law became much more unified across the five countries, over the centuries. However, there were still differences regarding where the laws originated from. For example, the Gulathing Law originated from Norway, in the 11th century, whereas the Law of Uppland came from Sweden, in the 13th century. These early laws formed the basis of future Scandinavian civil law; however, they were not in the same format as modern Scandinavian civil law. The first codification of Scandinavian civil law started with the areas of matrimony, property, inheritance and contract, although gradually this extended to cover the areas of administrative and criminal law. Religious law was dealt with entirely separately, with its own court and justice decisions. Despite the early shift towards codifying Scandinavian civil law, the first common law system that was centrally arranged was actually criminal law, particularly in the area of manslaughter and blood feuds. Religious law also started to become intertwined into the Scandinavian civil law, primarily in order to ensure that assisting the poor was something written down in law. Power also shifted towards the king, with King Magnus’s Swedish code of 1350 being the first of its kind, placing power on the King’s officials to manage the commencement of criminal proceedings. Although this only dealt with the criminal law element of the legal system, it was, nevertheless, the beginning of the Scandinavian civil system as we know it today. By 1380, Denmark and Norway had come under the rule of one king, although the legal systems remained independent. This unification was the first step towards the Scandinavian civil law becoming one system. Over the next three hundred years, the Scandinavian civil law system gradually gained codification and unification across the two countries, influences of which filtered into the neighbouring countries. The codes that were developed by the two Scandinavian countries were extremely well written and the envy of many of other countries. The wording in this code of Scandinavian civil law was both simple and easy to understand. Sweden was one of the first countries to accept the new code, actively, and it became clear that this was set to be the widely accepted Scandinavian civil law code. Scandinavian Civil Law Today Whilst the historic codes were both popular and widely accepted, the complexity of modern life has meant that Scandinavian civil law has more recently become regulated by more and more statutes. During this modern development, the five Scandinavian countries have all largely followed the same basic theories, yet have generated their own legal standards. Essentially, all Scandinavian civil law is based on the Swedish laws of the early 18th century. Although there is a degree of separation in terms of legal structures in the Scandinavian countries, there is still the agreement between the states to cooperate on matters of legislation. This agreement was entered into in 1872 and has become more and more important and the foundation of Scandinavian civil law as we know it today. Typically, areas such as commerce and contracts have always ensured that there is conformity amongst the Scandinavian states. One of the main benefits of having a largely uniform Scandinavian civil law is that trade and movement of both people and commerce is much more fluently achieved across the Scandinavian countries. Scandinavian civil law is a unique blend of many different legal systems, although most notably German and French laws. This influence is primarily down to the way in which the law is taught in Scandinavia, with many Scandinavian based lawyers studying in France and Germany before returning to practise in Scandinavia. Despite the unique format of the Scandinavian civil law, it does largely follow in line with other European countries when it comes to matters of international trade and shipping. Although it has been necessary for Scandinavian civil law to become suitably in line with other European states, the Scandinavian states have opted to stay as straightforward and close to real life practicalities, as possible. This is particularly evident when it comes to welfare law. In a similar way to the English law courts, the judges are largely responsible for making the law, although in a different way to the English courts. For example, there is no principle of binding precedent, which makes Scandinavian civil law particularly flexible and able to deal with changes is social needs as and when they arise. Scandinavian civil law is very flexible, yet sufficiently structured to allow the Scandinavian states to compete on an entirely level footing with other European states for the purposes of commercial contracts. Many legal theorists believe that Scandinavian civil law is, in fact, a model code which should be considered by many other modern countries across the world.

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