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Code of Hammurabi

Created in 1760 B.C. by Babylonian King Hammurabi, and discovered by archaeologists in 1901, the Codex Hammurabi is the oldest known set of codified laws, providing specific punishments for specific crimes (including “an eye for an eye”) and offering prescribed guidelines for interest rates, fines, and taxation. Because it was in written form, The Code of Hammurabi suggested that laws were above the power of any earthly king to change, making it a primitive form of a constitution.

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Codex Justinianus

Issued from 529-534 A.D. by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the Corpus Juris Civilis (or Codex Justinianus) was the most comprehensive code of Roman law and the basic, fundamental document of all modern civil law. Written in Latin, it compiled all of the constitutions of the emperors from Adrian to Justinian. Revered by scholars of Roman Law, The Corpus Juris Civilis became the model for legal systems across Europe.

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Magna Carta Libertatum

The Magna Carta is arguably the most significant legal document leading to the rule of constitutional law today in the English speaking world. By signing the document, King John of England placed himself and England's future sovereigns and magistrates within the rule of law. The Magna Carta protected the rights of free subjects, including most notably the writ of habeas corpus, allowing appeal against unlawful imprisonment. It also required the King to respect legal procedures, acknowledge certain rights and accept that the law could supercede his will. Originally issued in 1215, the Magna Carta was instrumental in the development of common law and many constitutional documents, including the United States Constitution.

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United States Constitution

Established in 1787, the U.S. Constitution is the fundamental framework for the United States Government and the supreme law of the United States. It is the oldest constitution of any sovereign state and a definitive model for cooperative government and the creation of constitutional legal structures throughout the world. It clearly outlines the powers of the judicial, executive and legislative branches and is the source of the government’s legal authority. The Constitution defines the rights and responsibilities of citizens and the powers exercised both by government and the people of the United States.

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Napoleonic Code

Established under Napoleon I in 1804, the Napoleonic Code was a major step in establishing the rule of law, which means that the law is above everyone and it applies to everyone. The Napoleonic Code offered clearly written and accessible laws forbidding privileges based on birth, allowing freedom of religion, and specifying that government jobs go to the most qualified. Napoleon subsequently established the Code of Civil Procedure, the Commercial Code and the Penal Code. The Napoleonic Code served as the primary influence in the 19th-century civil codes of most countries of continental Europe and Latin America.

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Constitution of India

The Constitution of India was adopted on January 26,1950, after the transition of India from a British Dominion to a republic. Based on principles of common law, The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India, and its framework defines the fundamental political principles, structures, procedures, powers and duties of the government as well as the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, including equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights. As the guiding legal document created for the formation of the largest democracy in the world, it assures fundamental rights for all citizens irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed, color or sex, making it one of the most significant legal documents in modern times.

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About These Images

Document review, management and analysis for lawyers is Novus Law’s only business. We've illustrated our respect for the past and enthusiasm for innovation by depicting on our website six historically important legal documents which helped shape the legal landscape we know today. You can find out more about each document by clicking on its name when you roll over the various images.

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