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CRIM 135 Lecture Notes - Precedent, Consolidated Laws Of New York, Golden Rule

Course Code
CRIM 135
Graeme Bowbrick

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I. Legal Reasoning and Case Law: The Doctrines of Precedent and Stare Decisis
Case Law (sometimes referred to Common Law)
-2nd major source of law
-Every time a judge makes a decision, they create a case law
oThey don’t just give a bare bones decision (such as “guilty”), they provide reasons in writing (especially
in higher courts)
oJudge will set out facts about the case, also set out the relevant law, then set out legal issues that need
to be resolved (disputes), then judge will indicate decision, and set out reasons for their decisions, and
within the reasons we find the case law. (Case law emerges from the reasons for the decision)
oConflicts between elective representatives and unelected representatives (judges are appointed)
Legislative law conflicts case law?
Legislative law always win, can do anything they want as long it’s part of the constitution
Laws are made by elected representatives should prevail over other laws
-Ex: If there is a common law that’s centuries old (sky is blue) and government passes legislation against it,
legislation wins (sky is black act) -> the sky is black in legal situations
Legal Reasoning
1. The Concept of Precedent
o Precedent: basic ideas that judges should treat similar cases in a similar way
Previously decided cases, serve as law to be followed by future cases, meaning that the judge is
obligated from the facts of the past case and present case should have the same decision
(treating similar cases the same)
Central principle for legal system
Principle that a judge must follow a judge from a previous case and the law and the act are
similar in both cases
Look only at the facts that are relevant and are similar enough to the previous case
We like this because it allows certainty and predictability in case law = stability
How? (Certainty) in a sense that we know (Ex: upcoming pianist and a potential career in
front of here, and someone slams your car door, you sue them for negligence, the lawyer
researching case law since you asked how much you can get from this, (ex hands
critical) , find the range of compensations from previous cases
oAble to predict the compensations before heading to trial (Predictability)
2. The Concept of Stare Decisis
oStare decisis: precedence of higher courts must be followed by lower courts in the same
jurisdiction, a rule of how precedent should operate
oDiffer from precedent
oCase law sometimes referred to be common law (vast body of judicially law made common law
legal system extends back about 800 years in Britain – inherited precedence from Britain)
oLegislation more important forms of law (since 150 years ago)
oBefore: common law was more important
Now: Lives more governed by legislation
If they speak English, they go by common law ( means they used to be under the British influence)
3. The Operation of Stare Decisis: Binding Authority vs. Persuasive Authority
(a) Binding Authority:
oA court is only bound to follow decisions from higher courts in the same jurisdiction
(b) Persuasive Authority:
oAnother Court in a different jurisdiction can’t just be ignored (might constitute persuasive authority)
oWhen it doesn’t fall under binding authority, judges can choose to follow reasoning in another case even
though they aren’t bound to (might be able to persuade the judge to follow the decision of another case, or
judge might find the reasoning in other case to be persuasive)
oHow do we know what a judge will find persuasive?
oSimilar facts & laws
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