CIVIL LAW & NAPOLEON
A term often used in litigation is “civil law” or a “civil case”. Civil law is the formal rules and standards used in a civil case. It is a global term used to distinguish the type of law applied from criminal law (which applies to criminal acts).
A civil case is when one party (person, business, or agency) sues another because of a dispute between them, usually involving money.
South African Civil Law was inherited from the Dutch, who developed their law from codes in France and Roman-Dutch law.
In pre-revolutionary France, the law was complicated, fractured and influenced by systems of local customs (something like our own indigenous laws). Most frustratingly, it was not accessible to the general population. The Rationalists of the French Revolution were determined to impose legal certainty. Few people are aware that Napoleon himself stepped up to the mark and with the assistance of other jurists came up with a code of private law in 1804. This code was remarkable for its comprehensiveness, system and simplicity.
Napoleon insisted that the ordinary educated citizen should be able to understand it without the intervention of specialists. (Could our legislature learn from him?) He was so proud of the result that he insisted that it be called “the Code Napoleon”.
With political changes it is now, and for a long time has been known simply as the Code Civil.
This Code Civil has been enormously influential and forms the basis for the civil codes in many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.