Reggie D's Paper on Discretion: Reggie D

Precedent is the application of prior decisions of the court to the case at hand. Llewellyn reduces it to habits of the legal system, which is overly simplistic but an effective introduction. Precedent can be used to affirm or negate the likelihood of various outcomes to a specific case. It is used by both lawyers and judges. Both sides of representing counsel use precedent to plead their case; the pronounced guilt or innocence of either party. Judges similarly use precedent to guide them in the making of their decisions about that said guilt or innocence. Precedent is used by looking at all previous cases with facts similar to the facts of your case. Then the rulings of those cases are examined and attempts are made to align them with the facts of the present case for a favorable outcome.

Llewellyn alleges that there are two views of precedent, strict and loose. The strict view of precedent is applied when looking at cases with facts similar to yours and the rulings of those previous cases are unfavorable to what you would like the outcome of your case to be. Practice of the strict view would narrow the scope of previous cases, whittling down, exposing the most minute differences, attempting to show that a case with a negative outcome really isn’t that similar to your case and should therefore have no implications on the outcome of the present case. Loose view precedent is the opposite of strict view in that is use seeks to broaden the scope of previous cases with favorable outcomes in hopes that the facts and events of your case will fall under the umbrella of similarities with the previous case. This would cause the decision of the court to be the same as before.

On February 6, 2006, Target was sued because their website was not accessible to people with disabilities. There is screen access technology which would enable persons with disabilities to navigate Target’s website by converting information on the screen into speech or braille but Target either did not employ this technology or it was improperly coded rendering it useless. On October 2, 2007, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel oversaw the case of “all legally blind individuals in the United States who have attempted to access and as a result have been denied access to the enjoyment of goods and services offered in Target stores” and “all legally blind individuals in California who have attempted to access” verses Target. The Judge sided with the complainant and the NFB, National Federation of the Blind, was to monitor Target as they improve their website for use by persons with disability. Target was given the deadline of February 28, 2009, for the website updates to be completed. Upon completion the NFB will allow Target to display the NFB-NVA (nonvisual access) seal on their website. Target was ordered to place $6 million dollars in account of which all blind Californians with a valid claim have access. They also paid 20,000 in the name of the original plaintiff, Bruce Saxton, to setup a non-profit corporation for a center for the blind in California.

This case set the precedent for cases involving companies and their services being accessible to persons with disability. In the future, if it can be shown that a company or a website or service provider is not making their product or services readily available to all, then they might be in jeopardy of being sued and if the circumstances of the case are similar to NFB vs. Target, then precedent states that the court will decide in favor of the complainant. John Paré, the director of Public Relations at the NFB has gone on record stating that if the NFB finds other websites non-accessible to persons with disabilities whom are unwilling the make the necessary changes, then they will “take the appropriate legal action”.

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