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.
For instance, in the case already mentioned; they never desire to know what claim or title my adversary has to my cow; but whether the said cow were red or black; her horns long or short; whether the field I graze her in be round or square; whether she was milked at home or abroad; what diseases she is subject to, and the like; after which they consult precedents, adjourn the cause from time to time, and in ten, twenty, or thirty years, come to an issue.
(William Barnacle) would search for a Precedent; and oftentimes crushing the honourable gentleman flat on the spot by telling him there was no Precedent.
"My Lords, the business of the Council being concluded, I have only to wish you a happy New Year." Before departing, he expressed, at some length, to the Clerk, my excellent but most unfortunate brother, his sincere regret that, in accordance with precedent and for the sake of secrecy, he must condemn him to perpetual imprisonment, but added his satisfaction that, unless some mention were made by him of that day's incident, his life would be spared.
If a minority in such case will secede rather than acquiesce, they make a precedent which in turn will divide and ruin them; for a minority of their own will secede from them whenever a majority refuses to be controlled by such minority.
And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice.
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. It has indeed happened, that governments of this kind have generally operated in the manner which the distinction taken notice of, supposes to be inherent in their nature; but there have been in most of them extensive exceptions to the practice, which serve to prove, as far as example will go, that there is no absolute rule on the subject.
In order to illustrate how legal precedents can be set by courts that decide cases involving indigenous cultures without knowing anything about those cultures, McNeil examines an early seminal case on Indigenous land rights in Canada.
While the Court of Appeals may disregard precedent in rare situations, Dietz said, this only happens when two irreconcilable precedents develop independently.
Decisions are normally supported by the legal information sources such as relevant precedents, statutes, law reports, journals, books.
In addition to discussing the Restatement, Gerena cited two key federal precedents to support its view of intercircuit choice of law.