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R, Roman Law.

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 07 June 2023

Roman Law.

American law has developed apart both from other *common-law jurisdictions and from *civil-law countries. Yet other legal systems have influenced American law. Among those, Roman law is one of the most significant.

The role played by Roman law in shaping the thinking of American jurists and in the development of substantive law in the United States can be easily exaggerated. There was never any possibility that Roman law might displace common law in the United States as a whole, though in those territories once under civil-law systems, such as Florida and Texas, Roman law did play a dominant role for a time. In the Supreme Court, however, Roman law was always peripheral and served, at most, as a backdrop or counterpoint to American common law. Some specific characteristics of the influence exerted by Roman law are clear and consistent. First, Roman and civil law provided a model of systematic legal structure, especially in their organizational and conceptual framework. Second, Roman law provided a wealth of precise terminology to express complex legal concepts. Third, and most importantly, Roman law provided a source for comparative materials by which to judge American rules, as well as the historical substrata upon which many American and English rules used in the United States rested. Many Supreme Court opinions attempted to provide not only a theoretical justification for legal rules laid down, but also a historical rationale for these rules. Citations to Roman law are common in this context.

Finally, Roman law citations found their way into Supreme Court opinions because individual justices were interested in Roman law. The greatest of the Romanist justices were Joseph *Story and Oliver Wendell *Holmes, though no Supreme Court justice, including Story and Holmes, was a true scholar of Roman law.

M. H. Hoeflich