In Dicta

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Civil Law system in Louisiana and Iraq

I found this story quite interesting. It begins:

"Iraq's prosecution of insurgents is getting a helping hand from U.S. Army lawyers who were schooled in Louisiana, the only state that also has courts rooted in the French legal system that allows judges to act as inquisitors.

One of the lawyers, Capt. Dan Stigall, said he found similarities between the two systems as soon as he opened an Iraqi law book.

"It was interesting to open it up and say, 'Gosh, we do share so much,'" said Stigall, who earned his law degree at Louisiana State University and spent six months working with Iraq's courts last year.

Louisiana is the only U.S. state with a legal system based on French-style "civil law," which gives more discretion to judges and relies less on precedents than so-called "common law," the Anglo-American foundation of the other states' systems.

The differences appear subtle to non-lawyers, but legal experts say a background in Louisiana law helps an American lawyer in dealing with Iraqi judges, who take the lead role in questioning witnesses at criminal trials.

"I think it's a tremendous advantage," said Christopher L. Blakesley, a civil law expert who taught at LSU's law school for 20 years and is now at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Another bonus: The judges were pleased and surprised to work with Americans who have an understanding of Iraq's system of justice."