The precedent on an issue doctrine of stare decisis pdf the collective body of judicially announced principles that a court should consider when interpreting the law. In some systems precedent is not binding but is taken into account by the courts. In the United States state and federal courts, jurisdiction is often divided geographically among local trial courts, several of which fall under the territory of a regional appeals court, and all regional courts fall under a supreme court.
By definition decisions of lower courts are not binding on each other or any courts higher in the system, nor are appeals court decisions binding on each other or on local courts that fall under a different appeals court. Further, courts must follow their own proclamations of law made earlier on other cases, and honor rulings made by other courts in disputes among the parties before them pertaining to the same pattern of facts or events, unless they have a strong reason to change these rulings. Given a determination as to the governing jurisdiction, a court is “bound” to follow a precedent of that jurisdiction only if it is directly in point. A judge can’t be jailed or fined for disagreeing with it. Judicial Ethics do not mention obedience to precedent, but to “the federal Constitution and that of the state whose laws they administer.
In most cases, precedent is the most reasonable interpretation of the Constitution and our laws, in which cases the oath to the constitution is most faithfully observed by following precedent. But when a judge finds the interpretation of the Constitution in a majority opinion unpersuasive, compared to the interpretation in the dissent, then following precedent may violate the judge’s oath. But nothing can conflict with a sworn officer’s oath to the Constitution. Citizens trying to obey the law need a sense of what the law is. Persuasive precedent may become binding through the adoption of the persuasive precedent by a higher court. Custom can be so deeply entrenched in the society at large that it gains the force of law. There need never have been a specific case decided on the same or similar issues in order for a court to take notice of customary or traditional precedent in its deliberations.