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Friday, March 21, 2008
Fact of the Day - Napoleonic Code
On this day in 1804, one of the few lasting enactments of the Napoleonic Period in history took place. The Napoleonic (Civil) Code went into effect in France and where ever else the French governed. Although not the first attempt by a government to codify and simplify their laws (Justinian did it to Roman Law in 530 and Napoleon used his code as inspiration), the promulgation of the Napoleonic Code has clearly influenced bodies of law around the world.

Before Napoleon codified French law, much of the law of France depended on local customs, privilege, royal grants and charters, and special exemptions granted by feudal lords. What might be considered a transgression in Bourdeaux, however, might only be shrugged at in Paris. This led to uneven enforcement. So, in 1804, Napoleon created a commission of four jurists to catalogue and draft an all-encompassing set of civil laws for France. They used Justinian's model and divided the civil law into three distinct areas: personal, property, and acquisition of property. The result was not an overnight success, but has since been used by many nations around the world to develop their own laws.

In the United States, Louisiana's civil code has kept its Roman roots and some of its aspects feature influences by the Napoleonic Code, but is based more on Roman and Spanish civil traditions. As a result, the bar exam and legal standards of practice in Louisiana are significantly different from other states, and reciprocity for lawyers from other states is not available. (Wikipedia Article - Napoleonic Code)

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