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Michael H Lubetsky

This chapter examines the legal definition of charity in common law and civilian legal traditions. The chapter begins with Roman law, outlining the origins of the civilian approach to defining charity for legal purposes. It then considers the reception and treatment of English charity law in the United States of America, and demonstrates that US courts came to recognize the civilian origins of English charity law. Finally, the chapter examines the famous case of Commissioners for Special Purposes of Income Tax v Pemsel, and emphasizes the ways in which that case demanded reflection on the relation of the legal definitions of charity in the English common law and the Scottish hybrid systems. Throughout, the chapter emphasizes that common law and civilian legal traditions share common Roman roots and have interacted for centuries in relation to the legal definition of charity.