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How does doctrine of precedent work?

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Quick Answer

The legal doctrine of precedent is used when a court system decides a case based on a previous case with similar circumstances. Preceding cases should persuade current jurisprudence to act in a similar fashion, according to USLegal. Precedent allows for stability and predictability in legal systems, and it follows the norms and mores of the community in which the court serves.

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Full Answer

Cornell University Law School calls the doctrine of precedent "stare decisis," or "to stand by things decided." American courts cite this Latin term when invoking precedents in cases pertaining to similar issues that have already been decided. In general, courts side with the preceding case law, but not always.

One prevalent example of American courts following precedent involves Roe v. Wade. In the 1992 case Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, the U.S. Supreme Court cited stare decisis dozens of times when it handed down decisions regarding five abortion laws in Pennsylvania on the books since 1982, according to Cornell University Law School.

Australian law cites examples of cases wherein high-level courts reversed previous decisions, even under similar circumstances. A controversial 2008 case, Imbree v. McNeilly, overturned a 1986 case regarding a learning driver's responsibility for a passenger's injury, according to associate law professor Matthew Harding from The University of Melbourne. Originally, Australian courts ruled that a learning driver is responsible for another person's injuries if the driver is negligent. In 2008, that decision was reversed.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the importance of a precedent?

    A:

    In a court of law, a precedent is important because it gives the judges a base guideline to work from when deciding the outcome of a case. Many of the precedents laid down for the courts to follow have been around for over 200 years.

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  • Q:

    What is a binding precedent?

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    Also referred to as mandatory precedent, binding precedent is an existing law to which a court is expected to adhere. All inferior or lower courts are expected to follow the laws of a superior court in a particular jurisdiction.

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  • Q:

    What is the definition of judicial precedent?

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    According to Northumbria University, a judicial precedent is a court ruling that is used as a source of future judicial decision making. A judicial precedent is authoritative and binding, meaning that once a decision has been made in court, future court cases must rely on this precedent when ruling.

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  • Q:

    What is the "doctrine of nullification"?

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    In American history, the doctrine of nullification supports states' rights to nullify federal laws that states deem to be unconstitutional, according to Pearson Education. This theory was promulgated by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the late 1790s. The nullification crisis of the 1820s revolved around South Carolina's objection to federal tariffs on English textiles, because the state felt the tariffs benefited industrial states in the North.

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