Skip to main content
Contribution to Book
Comparative Law and its Influence on National Legal Systems
The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (2006)
  • Jan M Smits
This contribution explores the use of comparative law by the legislature and the courts in creating, reforming and interpreting national law. This practical use of comparative law by national institutions has increased considerably over the last few decades. Particularly in Europe, comparative reasoning seems to play an ever larger role in drafting statutes and deciding cases. Still, in legal systems that have been mainly national in outlook and character over the last two centuries, many aspects of this recourse to foreign law are far from clear. One of the key questions is the extent to which it is legitimate for a court to refer to foreign law in a purely domestic dispute. While in Europe the drawing of comparative inspiration in such cases is usually met with enthusiasm, this is different in the United States, where it is keenly debated whether such 'comparative reasoning' is allowed, particularly in constitutional cases. In this chapter, the scholarly state of affairs regarding the influence of comparative law in national systems is critically assessed. In so doing, emphasis is put on private law and constitutional law, as these are the two areas where comparative inspiration is discussed most vigorously.
  • Comparative Law
Publication Date
Mathias Reimann & Reinhard Zimmermann
Citation Information
Jan M Smits. "Comparative Law and its Influence on National Legal Systems" OxfordThe Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (2006)
Available at: