First Principles of Business Law

Sources of law: case law
2. The doctrine of precedent.

2.1. The purpose of the doctrine



We said in the previous section that judges routinely follow previously decided cases.  In fact, there are rules that compel them to do so. These rules arise from what is called 'the doctrine of precedent'.  Very broadly stated, the doctrine of precedent requires that a judge who is deciding a new case should decide it in the same way that substantially similar cases have been decided in the past, unless there are recognised reasons for not doing so.

Why is it desirable that courts should decide new cases in the same way as previously decided cases? Consider the different statements below, and choose the best explanation.

(a) Requiring a court to follow previous decisions is the best way of ensuring that the law remains certain, predictable and consistent.

(b) Requiring a court to follow previous decisions is primarily a way of keeping control of judges and stopping them from making new law.

(c) There is no widely accepted reason for the rule that a court must follow previous decisions: it is simply the established way Australian courts work.







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