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Principles of Common Law

2 Components of Stare Decisis

2 Components of Stare Decisis

Common law is a type of legal system in which judicial decisions are made primarily based on precedent. Precedent refers to prior court case decisions that will set a standard for how similar subsequent cases should be judged. Basically, cases with similar circumstances to prior cases will be ruled in the same way. The main basis for this type of legal system is stare decisis. This is a Latin phrase that means “stand by decisions”. This phrase holds judges to prior court decisions and will not allow for change unless a judge has reasonable grounds for doing so.  
Stare decisis is only applied in common law systems. In contrast, a civil law system is based on formal, written legislation rather than a case-by-case process. Civil law systems allow for a wider interpretation of statutes by judges. However, this can sometimes lead to bias. This is why common law systems rely on precedent to form judicial opinion. For the most part, stare decisis allows for judgments to be slightly more predictable in common law systems than civil law systems. 
There are two important components within the concept of stare decisis. There is a procedure of authority that must be followed in all common law systems. Any decisions that are made in a higher court are binding over lower courts. This means that any decision made in an appellate court is binding and cannot be overturned in an inferior court. 
The judicial system in common law jurisdictions is divided in descending order into supreme courts, appellate courts, and trial courts. Supreme court judicial decisions are absolutely binding over all other courts, meaning they must be obeyed. This is sometimes called vertical stare decisis because of the ranking authority of the courts. However, this process can sometimes be complicated because there are also judicial decisions that are based on horizontal stare decisis. State courts are generally divided into circuits. Each circuit must also obey the decisions of other circuit courts in their jurisdiction.
The term super stare decisis, or super-precedent, has also been used in common law systems. This term is used to describe a judicial decision that is very difficult to overrule. Super stare decisis is a controversial issue because many people believe that a precedent should not be so concrete, especially if it is not considered to be the correct decision. 
In discussing super-precedent, many people have cited the abortion issue that was decided in Roe v. Wade. Some people believe that abortion, being such a controversial issue, should not be set in stone by a court case where one side was able to convince the court. However, generally precedents will be able to be overturned when the view of society has changed. Super stare decisis is considered to be an extreme type of precedent.

Civil Law vs Common Law

Common law
jurisdictions differ greatly from civil law jurisdictions. Common law places a
large amount of importance on precedent. Court cases are ruled by applying past
judgments to subsequent cases with similar circumstances. In these systems,
judges are able to essentially create law when ruling in cases of first

Cases of
first impression occur when the circumstances of a case are unique and there is
no existing precedent that can be applied to this case. When a judge rules on a
case of first impression in a common law system, this ruling will become law
and set a new precedent.

In civil law
systems, cases are ruled based on written civil legislation and code. This
means that judges have more freedom in interpreting legislation than in common
law systems, since their decisions are not based on precedents. It is sometimes
said that civil law systems are less predictable than common law systems. This
is because civil law is not based on precedence, thus giving parties involved
in lawsuits less of an ability to predict the outcome of their case.

Another major difference between civil law and
common law jurisdictions is the use of the adversarial or the inquisitorial
systems. Common law will utilize an adversarial system. This means that there
will be two sides of an argument that are represented by adversaries. These
adversaries will represent the interests of their clients and attempt to
influence an impartial judge and jury.

In an
inquisitorial system that is utilized in civil law jurisdictions, the judge is
actually involved in examining evidence that will lead to a decision. This is
different than an adversarial system in which the evidence is only presented to
the judge. A judge in a civil law system may be able to actually interrogate witnesses
and examine evidence. This means a judge is not an impartial party, but may be
biased based on evidence.

The way that legal academia is treated by the
legal system differs greatly between civil law and common law jurisdictions.
Under the common law, legal professionals’ treatises and academic findings are
often treated as support for a court’s decision. It is not generally treated as
the law itself. Academic writings may also be used as support for creating new
policy and in legal opinion. Legal opinion always accompanies a judge’s
decision and it is basically an explanation of a ruling. It will reference
prior court cases and legal treatises. In civil law jurisdictions, legal
writings are much more significant in judge’s rulings. These are often relied
upon in civil law to form judicial opinion.

Principles Common Law Explained Quick and Easy

Principles Common Law Explained Quick and Easy

Interaction with
Constitutional Law

Common law is formed on the basis that courts will
make decisions based on past judgments. Cases with similar circumstances will
be ruled in the same way. Oftentimes
, the common law will combine with statutory
law in order to make decisions.

The U.S. Constitution is a broad outline of rules and
regulations governing how the courts should operate. Common law is an
interaction between these two systems that will interpret the laws of the
Constitution in order to make decisions. Although the Constitution does not
courts to declare things unconstitutional, it does allow judges to create new
laws to a certain exten
t. When ruling on a case of first impression,
a judge’s decision will form law and become the new precedent. 

Interaction w/ Statutory Law

Law vs. Common Law

The basis of common law systems is that court
cases will be ruled primarily based on precedent. This is referred to as stare
decisis, which is a Latin phrase meaning “stand by decisions”. Civil
law systems do not rule based on stare decisis, but instead focus mainly on
legislatures to make decisions. In common law systems, judges are bound to rule
cases of similar circumstances in the same way.

is a vertical and horizontal system to stare decisis. This means that, in the
vertical system, courts are held in a hierarchy of binding precedent. The
Supreme Court will hold precedence over appellate courts, and appellate courts
are binding over trial courts. Precedents that are set in trial court will not
be binding over higher courts.

horizontal component to stare decisis means that State courts will obey the
precedents set within circuit courts. The term super stare decisis refers to
precedent that is very difficult to change.