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A legal code is a moral code enforced by the law of a state. It implies an
ethical code of court procedures and evidence rules that apply to jurists,
i.e. to judges and lawyers. In its most general form a legal code is a
compact restatement of the law that is designed to be clear, understandable
by the lay person (one without a legal education). Legal codes can be of a
general private law nature, or they may cover specific areas of law such as
in the area of criminal law or certain kinds of statutory types of laws,
i.e. traffic code.
Usually, the legal code serves the dual purpose of broadcasting a certain
idea of public morality, and disclosing the retribution that the society,
via the state, will visit on those who offend that morality.
For further predictability, a legal code usually includes a body of prior
decisions or precedent, which with the law itself constitutes what is called
a jurisprudence. A jurist is an individual who makes judgements that are
incorporated into the jurisprudence, either as cases or as laws themselves.
To speed cases along and ensure more uniform representation, many legal
codes require a defendant or plaintiff to be represented by an attorney at
law, whose responsibility is to take the client's case without prejudice,
and to their best to minimize the penalties applied by law, including
ideally the release of their client from any responsibility at all.
Example legal codes that rely heavily on precedent and the opinions of prior
jurists include English common law, U.S. Constitutional Law. By contrast
most implementations of Islamic Shariah. Napoleonic Code, Chinese Law and
German Law, emphasize very specific philosophical principles rooted in
French, Chinese, and German philosophy respectively - the role of precedent
and prior jurists is much reduced and that of current judges enhanced - thus
these can be seen as an ethical code which applies to the jurists themselves.
Proposals for legal reform are difficult to characterize in terms of their
impact on legal codes themselves.