Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary

Common Law

The body of law that developed over many years in England based on court decisions and custom, as compared to written statutes (codifications of the law). Coloniists imported England's common law to what became the United States, and it survives today, greatly expanded and changed by the published decisions of American courts. Many common law principles, however, have been codified in state statutes.Only Louisiana does not take as its basic law the English common law; instead, that state's law is based on France's Napoleonic Code.