precedent

(redirected from Legal precedent)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal.
Related to Legal precedent: Stare decisis, Persuasive precedent

precedent

Law a judicial decision that serves as an authority for deciding a later case

Precedent

 

in law, a decision delivered by a court in a specific case, the opinion for which becomes a rule that is binding on all courts of the same or lower instance in deciding analogous cases. Soviet law does not recognize precedent and does not permit the decision of criminal cases by analogy, holding that the judicial decision should be based on statutory law alone.

In some countries, including Great Britain, most of the states in the United States, Canada, and Australia, legal precedent is recognized as a source of law and lies at the foundation of the entire legal system. In accordance with the prevailing doctrine in these countries, the judge who creates a legal precedent does not create a legal norm but only formulates that which follows from the common principles of law inherent in human nature. In reality the judge may always reject the application of precedent, citing some insignificant features of the particular case in order to introduce an entirely new rule. The judge also has the freedom to interpret precedent and to select from an enormous number of precedents; in other words, there is an enormous potential for judicial discretion and arbitrary legal actions. In legal writing and in practice, systems of law based on precedent are often called systems of judge-made law.

In a number of bourgeois countries, including France, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Belgium, precedent is important for deciding questions of the application of law, filling gaps in the law, and recognizing custom and commercial practices. On the basis of precedent, existing legislation is supplemented, and statutory law is interpreted.

References in periodicals archive ?
"The fact there are legal precedents is because somebody has decided to take a stand."
Gripped by their Islamic fervor, they are often taken aback when reminded of this important legal precedent that shaped interfaith relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, and of its Quranic basis in injunctions like "there shall be no compulsion in religion," and "tell the infidels, 'to you your religion, to me mine.'" These principles are firmly enshrined in Islamic law and historical precedent, which require Muslims to honor and protect those who frequently remember God's names and hymn His praises in "cloisters, synagogues, churches and mosques."
Legal precedent makes it likely that Judge Clarence Newcomer, who oversaw both trials, will reduce the total to about $8.5 million to $10 million, he said.
I, Dred Scott; a fictional slave narrative based on the life and legal precedent of Dred Scott.
A 1995 legal memorandum by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel noted that because of legal precedent it was likely that courts would "hold that making historic preservation grants to churches and other pervasively sectarian properties is inconsistent with the Establishment Clause."
The DOD further argued that suits like those brought at Eagle River Flats, if successful, could set a legal precedent whereby environmental litigants could halt military training and thus undermine troop readiness on the battlefield.
While the opinion does not have the power of law, observers say it could be used as a legal precedent for civil lawsuits.
Finding scant protection under current laws, some non-Japanese and naturalized Japanese have gone to the courts to try to establish legal precedent on racial discrimination.
The ruling is a legal precedent for all EU and EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).
On a split panel, by contrast, an outlier judge can act as a whistleblower by forcing his colleagues to adhere more closely to legal precedent.
Stevenson's letter pointed out that in making an "unreasonable risk" finding under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA), Commissioners should look to legal precedent.
Certain issues, including Service Center appeals, or those issues with no legal precedent, cannot be addressed in fast-track mediation.