Precedent Definition Government

Learn about the importance of precedent in government decisions, examples, case studies, and statistics on the influence of rulings on future decisions.

What is Precedent in Government?

Precedent in government refers to a previous decision or ruling that serves as a guide or justification for future decisions. It is a fundamental principle in common law systems where decisions made by higher courts are binding on lower courts.

Types of Precedents

  • Binding Precedents: These are decisions that must be followed by lower courts within the same jurisdiction.
  • Persuasive Precedents: These are decisions from other jurisdictions or from lower courts that are not binding but may be considered in making decisions.

Importance of Precedents

Precedents provide consistency, predictability, and fairness in the legal system. They help in interpreting laws and ensuring that similar cases are treated similarly. Precedents also help in avoiding arbitrary decision-making by providing a basis for reasoning.

Examples of Precedents

In the United States, the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education set a precedent that segregation in schools is unconstitutional. This decision has influenced many subsequent cases related to civil rights and equality.

Case Studies

One famous case study involving precedent is Roe v. Wade where the Supreme Court established a precedent regarding the legality of abortion. This decision has been cited in numerous cases dealing with reproductive rights.


According to a study by the American Bar Association, 70% of appellate court decisions are based on precedents set by higher courts. This highlights the significance of precedent in shaping legal outcomes.

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