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Author Topic: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?  (Read 4494 times)

vansondon

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Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« on: August 10, 2009, 04:23:26 PM »
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated:

"A judicial precedent attaches a specific legal consequence to a detailed set of facts in an adjudged case or judicial decision, which is then considered as furnishing the rule for the determination of a subsequent case involving identical or similar material facts and arising in the same court or a lower court in the judicial hierarchy."

-Allegheny General Hospital v. NLRB, 608 F.2d 965, 969-970 (3rd Cir. 1979), as quoted in United States Internal Revenue Serv. v. Osborne (In re Osborne), 76 F.3d 306, 96-1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,185 (9th Cir. 1996).


The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has stated:


"Stare decisis is the policy of the court to stand by precedent; the term is but an abbreviation of stare decisis et non quieta movere "to stand by and adhere to decisions and not disturb what is settled." Consider the word "decisis." The word means, literally and legally, the decision. Under the doctrine of stare decisis a case is important only for what it decides for the "what," not for the "why," and not for the "how." Insofar as precedent is concerned, stare decisis is important only for the decision, for the detailed legal consequence following a detailed set of facts."

-United States Internal Revenue Serv. v. Osborne (In re Osborne), 76 F.3d 306, 96-1 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,185 (9th Cir. 1996).

Any thoughts?

Matthies

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2009, 04:38:49 PM »
Why? Becuase that's our system, we inherited from the brits when we reblled. Rather than starting over with a new legal system, we kept the system of common law and precedent from the English legal system and put our own American spin on it.
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vansondon

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2009, 04:43:15 PM »
Why? Becuase that's our system, we inherited from the brits when we reblled. Rather than starting over with a new legal system, we kept the system of common law and precedent from the English legal system and put our own American spin on it.

lol!  Thanks for humoring me Matthies.  But I know this much already (of course).  I was hoping for a little more debate over the legal/judicial concept of "precedent" itself...

goaliechica

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2009, 04:49:40 PM »
The argument is that, in order to be fair, the law should be predictable, and not depend on the whimsy of whichever judge is interpreting it at a given moment. It's an acknowledgment that written law is never, never perfectly clear and unambiguous to the extent that it would be interpreted exactly the same way by every able judge. We let the ambiguities get hammered out through litigation, and we let higher courts decide between conflicting interpretations in lower courts, and so on. And then lower courts have to follow the interpretation of higher courts, and higher courts have to follow their own rules, and a given law will always be applied in the same way in the jurisdiction where it has been decided and settled. Then, in theory, it will be easier for people to follow the law and it will be consistently applied to everyone in the same way, and that's more fair than having to guess at which judge you might get and how she might interpret a given law. This isn't really how it works in practice, of course, but the idea behind precedent is to make the law more stable and predictable, and therefore more just.
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mason123

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2009, 12:23:25 AM »
I believe that common law fills the void when statutory guidance is absent. For instance, in maritime law I remember reading a case that required the court system to determine whether a wrongful death claim was available in admiralty. Now state statutes were clear on the subject, but what is a court to do when the question has no real answer or case-law merely suggests a means for possible resolution? In order to do justice, sometimes courts must either create or follow common-law. In this case, common-law was created in order to provide guidance for an otherwise unanswered question.

As many civil procedure and constitutional law cases have demonstrated, common-law is merely a weak substitute for concrete statutes. If the common-law is no good, much like statutes but probably to a higher degree, a higher court will render it void to further justice. Common-law is created to further justice, and it is probably as quickly ignored or overruled to further justice.

Let me know if you think I am in error.

ExpLo

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2009, 03:20:47 PM »
I would say it's for judicial economy.  The courts are busy enough as they are.  Why retry a case when the rule of law for a set of facts have already been established.  Also the principal of stare decisis dissipates some legal conflicts before they even take form because the parties know what the consequences will be.  So I guess you can say stare decisis decreases the amount of conflict in society on some level.   

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Re: Why do courts follow precedent (binding and/or pursuasive)?
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2010, 07:25:13 AM »
Quote
I would say it's for judicial economy.  pmp test
The courts are busy enough as they are.  Why retry a case when the rule of law for a set of facts have already been established.  Also the principal praxis test
of stare decisis dissipates some legal conflicts before they even take form because the parties know what the consequences will be.  So I guess you can say stare decisis decreases the amount of conflict in society on some level.   

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