The foundation for deciding criminal cases is the prosecution's demonstration of the accused party's guilt beyond all reasonable doubt, according to United States law and as explained by Cornell University. The foundation for deciding civil cases requires that the plaintiff prove the case is more likely true than not, based on the evidence.
In the legal tradition of countries that have had their legal systems influenced or shaped by the British Empire, common law forms the basis of jurisprudence. Common law relies primarily on the standards and conclusions reached in previous trials and judges, as seen with the Supreme Court of the United States. While legislatures can pass new laws that overrule common law, the precedents set by the highest relevant court have the force of law in the absence of such legislation, according to the Louisiana State University Law Center.
In the legal tradition of countries which influenced or shaped by continental European powers, civil law is the preferred system. In civil law, legislation and statutes form the primary basis upon which courts decide cases. While judges in common law system shape the laws of their country with their decisions, judges in a civil law system have only a duty to apply the relevant aspects of already established legal codes with as little interpretation as possible, the University of California at Berkley says.