What does it mean to be a Common Law Jurisdiction in Nova Scotia?

Nova Scotia is a common law jurisdiction which means that our legal system is based on the common law tradition. This is a system that has its roots in England and which has been adopted and developed by many countries around the world, including Canada (with the exception of Quebec which operates on a civil code system in the French tradition).

In a common law jurisdiction, the law is developed through a combination of legislation and prior court decisions.  This means that previous court decisions are key sources of law within Nova Scotia – in other words, when a court makes a decision in a particular case, that decision can then be used as a precedent in future cases, helping to shape and develop the law over time. This principle is also referred to by the latin term of stare decisis which simply means that courts are bound to follow previous decisions in similar cases. This is intended to ensure consistency and predictability in the law, as well as to promote stability and fairness in the legal system. It can also help legal counsel provide good quality, reliable legal advice and assist parties in reaching resolution of legal matters through alternative dispute processes like settlement conferences or mediation.

The common law is jurisdiction based which means that only the previous decisions of the same court in the same jurisdiction will be binding.  In the Nova Scotia civil court system, this means that previous decisions of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal will be binding while decisions from other provinces may be helpful in making your case, but the deciding court is not bound to make the same decision here. The exception to this is of course the Supreme Court of Canada, our highest court in Canada. The Supreme Court releases decisions that are binding across the entire country in similar situations.

In closing, a common law jurisdiction means that the legal systems here in Nova Scotia is based on a long-standing tradition of judicial decision-making, the ultimate goal of which is to promote fairness, stability, and consistency in the resolution of legal disputes.

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