POLI 4023 Exam 2 Review – Essay Questions
Compare and contrast the inquisitorial versus the accusatorial traditions. What
problems emerge in the accusatorial tradition? What are its benefits?
In Civil Law, the two dominant systems are the accusatorial tradition and the inquisitorial
tradition. The accusatorial tradition was developed in England during the Middle Ages, 500-1500
A.D. The accusatorial tradition is also known as the adversarial process, and it is the system that is
used by the United States as well as Great Britain. The characteristics of the accusatorial tradition are
as follows. First of all, in this system, a public trial is held, and the accuser is identified. The charges
are specified, and evidence is disclosed during the trial. In the accusatorial system, the trial is
conducted by set procedures, and it is overseen by judges who serve as neutral referees. Also, the
offender is presumed innocent until proven guilty in this system. Thus, these are the characteristics of
the accusatory tradition.
The second tradition is known as the inquisitorial tradition. This tradition was developed in the
European continent during the inquisition of the Catholic Church. As opposed to the accusatory
tradition and Adversariality, the inquisitorial tradition is more about investigation. This system is
currently still being used by the continent of Europe. The characteristics of the inquisitorial tradition
are as such. Firstly, unlike the accusatory process, the trial in the inquisitorial system is not public,
and is actually held in secret. In the past, judges in this particular system even wore hooded robes to
conceal their identities. Also in this system, the accuser is not identified, and evidence is not
disclosed. Charges, beyond the general charge of heresy, are not specified in this tradition. The
offender is presumed guilty until proven innocent; however, the system currently has more
protections for the accused. The main purpose of this system is to extract confession in order to return
to God’s grace.
There are both problems and benefits that emerge in the accusatory tradition. Because this
process is an adversary process, some argue that the focus of the accusatory system is too heavily
centered around winning the case. Another issue with this process is that most cases, unlike in the
inquisitorial tradition, are solved through the plea bargaining process and settlement. These rarely go
to trial. This process can also lead to great injustice if the defendant has an unskilled attorney.
However, there are some benefits to the accusatory process as well. One benefit is that in this process,