Precedents


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PRECEDENTS. the decision of courts of justice; when exactly in point with a case before the court, they are generally held to have a binding authority, as well to keep the scale of justice even and steady, as because the law in that case has been solemnly declared and determined. 9 M. R. 355.
     2. To render precedents valid, they must be founded in reason and justice; Hob. 270; must have been made upon argument, and be the solemn decision of the court; 4 Co. 94; and in order to give them binding effect, there must be a current of decisions. Cro. Car. 528; Cro. Jac. 386; 8 Co. 163.
     3. According to Lord Talbot, it is "much better to stick to the known general rules, than to follow any one particular precedent, which may be founded on reason, unknown to us." Cas. Temp. Talb. 26. Blackstone, 1 Com. 70, says, that a former decision is in general to be followed, unless "manifestly absurd or unjust,", and, in the latter case, ii is declared, when overruled, not that the former sentence was bad law, but that it was not law.
     4. Precedents can only be useful when they show that the case has been decided upon a certain principle, and ought not to be binding when contrary to such principle. If a precedent is to be followed because it is a precedent, even when decided against an established rule of law, there can be no possible correction of abuses, because the fact of, their existence renders them above the law. It is always safe to rely upon principles. See Principle; Rewon. de 16 Vin. Ab. 499; Wesk. on Inst. h.t.: 2 Swanst. 163; 2 Jac. & W. 31; 3 Ves. 527; 2 Atk. 559; 2 P. Wms. 258; 2 Bro. C. C. 86; 1 Ves. jr. 11; and 2 Evans Poth. 377, where the author argues against the policy of making precedents binding when contrary to reason. See also 1 Kent, Comm.475-77; Liv.Syst. 104-5; Gresl. Ev. 300; 16 Johns. R. 402; 20 Johns. R. 722; Cro. Jac. 527; 33 H. VII. 41; Jones, Bailment, 46; and the articles Reason and Stare decisis.

References in classic literature ?
You see, it won't ever do for me, a brigadier in the regular army, to preside over that infant court-martial - there isn't any precedent for it, don't you see.
But she repeated no previous state at all in the lax disorder of her internal administration, a laxity that made vast sections of her area lawless beyond precedent, so that it was possible for whole districts to be impassable, while civil war raged between street and street, and for Alsatias to exist in her midst in which the official police never set foot.
But this heretical doctrine was strongly opposed by the other three, who quoted a great many precedents to show that bad weather was the very time for such appearances; and Mr Parkes (who had had a ghost in his family, by the mother's side) argued the matter with so much ingenuity and force of illustration, that John was only saved from having to retract his opinion by the opportune appearance of supper, to which they applied themselves with a dreadful relish.
If he had hesitated for one instant to punish Oliver most severely, it must be quite clear to every experienced reader that he would have been, according to all precedents in disputes of matrimony established, a brute, an unnatural husband, an insulting creature, a base imitation of a man, and various other agreeable characters too numerous for recital within the limits of this chapter.
There would be no Precedents to hammer at, except the plain-sailing Precedent of keeping the light up.
and, having cross-examined solitude after the most approved precedents, at considerable length, Mr.
As he was entirely alone, it may be presumed that, in these remarks, Mr Swiveller addressed himself to his fate or destiny, whom, as we learn by the precedents, it is the custom of heroes to taunt in a very bitter and ironical manner when they find themselves in situations of an unpleasant nature.
Miranda was rather mollified by and pleased with the turn of events, although she did not intend to show it, or give anybody any reason to expect that this expression of hospitality was to serve for a precedent on any subsequent occasion.
Yet, with all this scope of precedent, I now enter upon the same task for the brief Constitutional term of four years under great and peculiar difficulty.
It appeared to me to be a thing impossible and contrary to all precedent that so good a knight should have been without some sage to undertake the task of writing his marvellous achievements; a thing that was never wanting to any of those knights-errant who, they say, went after adventures; for every one of them had one or two sages as if made on purpose, who not only recorded their deeds but described their most trifling thoughts and follies, however secret they might be; and such a good knight could not have been so unfortunate as not to have what Platir and others like him had in abundance.
These positions are, in the main, arbitrary; they are supported neither by principle nor precedent.
Had no important step been taken by the leaders of the Revolution for which a precedent could not be discovered, no government established of which an exact model did not present itself, the people of the United States might, at this moment have been numbered among the melancholy victims of misguided councils, must at best have been laboring under the weight of some of those forms which have crushed the liberties of the rest of mankind.