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What is Common Law Jurisdiction?

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Common law jurisdiction is the practice of law through precedents rather than laws, and it is practiced in every state but Louisiana, which practices Napoleonic Code. In most cases, these precedents have been translated into statutes that can be referred to, although in basic law cases this is rarely done. Two common ways common law affects Americans is in terms of marriage and the environment.

Common Law Jurisdiction

  • Existing in England before the United States was even a country, common law became popular in American law after the 1769 publishing of Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England.
  • Common law also is practiced in countries colonized by England.
  • Questions about common law jurisdiction should be addressed by your legal professional.
  • Common law jurisdiction also can refer to the location in which the statute in question is being enacted. For example, a specific common law statute by a judge of a certain region would mean that the common law jurisdiction would cover the area over which that judge presides.

Common Law Jurisdiction Marriages

  • In some states, heterosexual couples who live together can be considered married without signing a formal marriage license. This is known as a common law marriage.
  • There are 16 states that permit common law marriage: Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia (if created before 1/1/97), Idaho (if created before 1/1/96), Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only), Ohio (if created before 10/10/91), Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05), Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
  • While it is commonly believed that a couple living together for a significant period of time constitutes a common law marriage, this is a common misconception. In fact, none of the 16 states state a specific period of time in which the couple must cohabitate. Instead, a couple that has lived together for a significant period of time, passes themselves off as husband and wife, and intends to get married is considered married via common law jurisdiction.
  • Common law couples must go through divorce if the relationship ends.

Environmental Common Law Jurisdiction

  • There are four components to common law as it pertains to the environment: nuisance, trespass, negligence and strict liability.
  • Nuisance commonly refers to the use of land that interferes with the rights of other people. These can be public or private.
  • Trespass refers to the interference with an owner’s property. While polluters and other violators may avoid litigation under the nuisance charge, they are often prosecuted for trespassing or negligence.
  • Negligence is similar to the trespass charge, the only difference being the harm inflicted on the property or plaintiff(s) was indirect or unintentional.
  • Strict liability is the fourth and final way a plaintiff may be able to find relief through the court system. This refers to environmental injuries that are of an abnormally high nature.
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