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Governmental entities that have been created and delegated with official responsibilities, such as a county highway authority. In legal research and citation, entities cited as sources of law, such as statutes, judicial decisions, and legal textbooks. Parties support their positions in a lawsuit by citing authorities in briefs, motions, and other documents submitted to the court.
Primary authorities are citations to statutes, court decisions, and government regulations that, if having the force of law, must be applied by the court to dispose of the issue in dispute if they are relevant to the matter. Secondary authorities are references to treatises, textbooks, or restatements that explain and review general principles of law that buttress a party's position in a lawsuit. Such authorities have no legal effect and can be disregarded by the court.
Authorities are also cited by scholars in legal treatises, hornbooks and restatements to establish the bases of the statements and conclusions contained in the works.
n. 1) previous decisions by courts of appeal which provide legal guidance to a court on questions in a current lawsuit, which are called "precedents." Legal briefs (written arguments) are often called "points and authorities." Thus, a lawyer "cites" the previously-decided cases as "authorities" for his/her legal positions. 2) a common term for law enforcement, as in "I'm going to call the authorities" (i.e. police). (See: precedent, cite, brief)
AUTHORITIES, practice. By this word is understood the citations which are
made of laws, acts of the legislature, and decided cases, and opinions of
elementary writers. In its more confined sense, this word means, cases
decided upon solemn argument which are said to 'be authorities for similar
judgments iii like cases. 1 Lilly's Reg. 219. These latter are sometimes
called precedents. (q.v.) Merlin, Repertoire, mot Autorites.
2. It has been remarked, that when we find an opinion in a text writer upon any particular point, we must consider it not merely as the opinion of the author, but as the supposed result of the authorities to which he refers; 3 Bos. & Pull. 361; but this is not always the case, and frequently the opinion is advanced with the reasons which support it, and it must stand or fall as these are or are not well founded. A distinction has been made between writers who have, and those who have not holden a judicial station; the former are considered authority, and the latter are not so considered unless their works have been judicially approved as such. Ram. on Judgments, 93. But this distinction appears not to be well founded; some writers who have occupied a judicial station do not possess the talents or the learning of others who have not been so elevated, and the works or writings of the latter are much more deserving the character of an authority than those of the former. See 3 T. R. 4, 241.