Doctrine of Judicial Precedent

The doctrine of judicial precedent, also known as stare decisis, is a fundamental principle in the common law legal system, which is used in many countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. It is a principle that helps to ensure consistency, predictability, and fairness in the legal system, and it requires lower courts to follow the legal decisions and rulings of higher courts in similar cases.

Stare decisis means "to stand by things decided". Under this principle, courts are bound to follow the legal rulings and decisions made by the same or higher court in similar cases. This means that when a court or its superior counterpart makes a ruling on a particular legal issue, it is required to follow that ruling when it faces a similar issue in the future.

This principle is essential for maintaining consistency in the interpretation and application of the law. However, it should be noted that the Supreme Court is able to deviate from its earlier decisions in exceptional cases but in practice it rarely does so.

As a result, even if the lower court feels that the precedent is unjust, it may not rule against a binding precedent, but it may express the hope that a higher court or the legislature will reform the rule in question.

If a lower court believes that developments or trends in legal reasoning render the precedent unjust or unhelpful, and wishes to evade it or to help the law evolve to meet the current developments, it may either hold that the precedent is inconsistent with subsequent authority (i.e. statute law or case law from higher courts), or that the precedent should be distinguished by some material difference between the facts of the cases.

If that decision goes to appeal, the appellate court, which is a higher court, will have the opportunity to review both the precedent and the case under appeal, perhaps overruling the previous case law by setting a new precedent of higher authority.

The doctrine of judicial precedent is based on the idea that legal decisions should be based on established legal principles, rather than on individual opinions or personal preferences. By following precedents, judges are able to make decisions based on the collective wisdom and experience of the legal system, rather than on their own subjective judgments.
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