Legal precedent is an essential tool for judges to shape their decisions. Precedent happens when a court makes a legal decision in a particular case, and that decision then becomes the standard by which similar cases are decided in the future. In other words, precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous case that is considered binding on subsequent cases.
Legal precedent has a significant influence on case decisions because judges must follow precedents set by higher courts unless they have reasons to differ or overrule them. Legal precedent serves two primary purposes: it increases predictability in the legal system by providing a blueprint for judges to follow when deciding cases, and it ensures consistency and fairness in the law.
When judges follow legal precedents, they are essentially implementing a time-tested decision made by a higher court. It means that the decision in that case has now become the governing law on that particular issue, and all subsequent cases dealing with similar issues should follow that precedent. When a higher court decides a case, the decision becomes binding on lower courts, who are then required to adhere to that decision.
For example, when the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, lower courts all over the country were bound to follow that precedent. It means that same-sex couples could no longer be denied the right to marry in any state in the country, regardless of state laws or public opinion.
Precedent also ensures consistency and fairness in legal decisions. When judges follow legal precedents, they are providing assurance to litigants that they will be treated fairly and equitably within the court system. It ensures that similar cases will be treated the same way, regardless of the judge or court hearing the case. It also provides a measure of trust in the legal system, as citizens can have confidence that the law is being applied consistently and impartially.
In conclusion, legal precedents are an incredibly important aspect of case decision making. The use of legal precedent ensures predictability, consistency, and fairness in the legal system. It gives judges a foundation on which to base their decisions, and it ensures that the same standards are applied to all cases with similar issues. Therefore, precedent’s impact is a significant contributor to shaping case decisions.