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Lecture 1

POLB30H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Precedent, Legislative Intent, Lists Of Landmark Court Decisions

Political Science
Course Code
Margaret Kohn

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Lecture 1
Class tips
Come to lectures (very heavily lecture-reliant course; no textbook)
Take notes for exam & to maintain focus
Do readings AFTER lectures (in between class & tutorials)
Tutorials start week 2
Normative theory – makes an argument (hypothesis, statement) about how things should be
rather than how they are
Used to be a carpenter’s measure (“norm”), then became used in law
E.g. you should attend lectures every week to do well in the class
Empirical statement, you can prove this
You should go to class to take part in the community of the university  you can’t
prove this using observation or statistics = normative statement
Common law – the part of law that’s is derived from custom and judicial precedent rather than
statutes, aka written law previously passed by legislation
E.g. common law married – no certificate but through custom they are married
Also referred to as judge-made law: developed by judges through decisions of courts &
Stare decisis – the principle stating that legal decisions must be based on PRECEDENT (the
relevant previous legal rulings)
“To stay decided” = once it’s been decided, it has to stay decided
Legal reasoning – the way judges, scholars, and lawyers attempt to persuade others what the law
ought to mean
How to use principles & ideas used to solve previous cases to solve current ones
Analogy have to be precise & explain how 2 cases are different
Legislative intent – the practice by a legislature to enact new laws on the basis of a
precedent (exercised in common/judge-made law)
Lawyers use case law (past cases) to make their arguments (uses principle of stare
Trying to bring factual info with normative arguments
Tricky bc we have preferences; sometimes it’s hard to persuade bc of the preferences of
each individuals
Landmark case – a term used to describe an important case that will set new precedents
E.g. the Amistad
find more resources at
find more resources at
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