Common law (also known as case law or precedent) is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals that decide individual cases, as opposed to statutes adopted through the legislative process or regulations issued by the executive branch. A “common law system” is a legal system that gives great precedential weight to common law, so that consistent principles applied to similar facts yield similar outcomes. The body of past common law binds judges that make future decisions, just as any other law does, to ensure consistent treatment. In cases where the parties disagree on what the law is, a common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is usually bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision (this principle is known as stare decisis). If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases (called a “matter of first impression”), judges have the authority and duty to make law by creating precedent. Thereafter, the new decision becomes precedent, and will bind future courts. In practice, common law systems are considerably more complicated than the simplified system described above. The decisions of a court are binding only in a particular jurisdiction, and even within a given jurisdiction, some courts have more power than others. For example, in most jurisdictions, decisions by appellate courts are binding on lower courts in the same jurisdiction, and on future decisions of the same appellate court, but decisions of lower courts are only non-binding persuasive authority. Interactions between common law, constitutional law, statutory law and regulatory law also give rise to considerable complexity. However, stare decisis, the principle that cases should be decided according to consistent principled rules so that similar facts will yield similar results, lies at the heart of all common law systems. One third of the world’s population (approximately 2.3 billion people) live in common law jurisdictions or in systems mixed with civil law. Common law originated during the Middle Ages in England, and from there was propagated to the colonies of the British Empire, including India, the United States (both the federal system and 49 of its 50 states), Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Canada and all its provinces except Quebec, Malaysia, Ghana, Australia, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, Ireland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cyprus, Barbados, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Namibia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Guyana, and Fiji.