case law

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Case Law

Legal principles enunciated and embodied in judicial decisions that are derived from the application of particular areas of law to the facts of individual cases.

As opposed to statutes—legislative acts that proscribe certain conduct by demanding or prohibiting something or that declare the legality of particular acts—case law is a dynamic and constantly developing body of law. Each case contains a portion wherein the facts of the controversy are set forth as well as the holding and dicta—an explanation of how the judge arrived at a particular conclusion. In addition, a case might contain concurring and dissenting opinions of other judges.

Since the U.S. legal system has a common-law system, higher court decisions are binding on lower courts in cases with similar facts that raise similar issues. The concept of precedent, or Stare Decisis, means to follow or adhere to previously decided cases in judging the case at bar. It means that appellate case law should be considered as binding upon lower courts.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

case law

n. reported decisions of appeals courts and other courts which make new interpretations of the law and, therefore, can be cited as precedents. These interpretations are distinguished from "statutory law" which is the statutes and codes (laws) enacted by legislative bodies, "regulatory law" which is regulations required by agencies based on statutes, and in some states, the Common Law, which is the generally accepted law carried down from England. The rulings in trials and hearings which are not appealed and not reported are not case law and, therefore, not precedent or new interpretations. Law students principally study case law to understand the application of law to facts and learn the courts' subsequent interpretations of statutes. (See: case system, precedent)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.

case law

law established by following judicial decisions given in earlier cases. See PRECEDENT, STARE DECISIS.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
References in periodicals archive ?
But he confirmed that in the interim court decisions are not being published on the CyLaw portal operated by the bar association.
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To read the court decision go to www.communityaction.ca
Researchers blame a series of court decisions that have struck down many districts' desegregation plans.
Many governors and lawmakers are displeased to find that a school finance court decision has blown a multimillion-dollar hole in a stare's carefully crafted, long-negotiated budget.
Supreme Court decision in favor of the Cleveland voucher program ends years of speculation.
While no Supreme Court decision addresses how "fresh" a warning has to be, the common approach is to re-advise only after an extended break in interrogation has occurred.