Tim H

Llewellyn introduces us to the concept of precedent with a broad definition that precedent is merely an official ruling over and over again based on what was done by his predecessors. In the courtroom, precedent has never been set in stone. Despite this claim, courts like to behave within the doctrine of Stare Decisis which allows them to be alike with the other courts, past and present. Courtrooms are often creatures of habit, claiming the absurdity of reopening solved cases. These solved cases become the operating technique applied to a present case. The technique neglects to reexamine the facts that led to the solutions of past rulings. Since precedent is accompanied by a written record, it decreases the possibility of legal change sneaking in unnoticed and moves towards repetition. When the courts do in fact overrule a previous case, legal change is brought about by merely changing the scope of past rulings, not disregarding them entirely. By knowing the concept of precedent, one can see how it is an important predictor of how the courts will rule. The prediction depends on how precedent is applied.
According to Llewellyn, precedent can be applied to a case in two interpretations: strict and loose. A strict interpretation of precedent is confining the present case to the particular facts only. It is hard for a judge, or lawyer, to apply because it often undermines the legal validity of the previous courts. Therefore, a judge will provide lip service to the past ruling while cutting the present case free of precedent. It is not hard to see how a strict interpretation can contradict the intentions of judges in prior cases because the facts leading to that ruling differ from the facts used in the current case. The second way of interpreting precedent is a loose interpretation. This view follows that if a rule was placed down by a previous court, then that rule is law. The interpretation applies the language of the past opinions to the present case with disregard to the present facts. This language can be used in convenience to capitalize welcome precedent by both judges and lawyers alike. Precedent is therefore a two way street that uses interpretations that are contradictory to each other. There is a method for getting rid of precedent that is troubling and a method for making use of precedent that is helpful to the case. Llewellyn then states that these interpretations are the reason law changes, but holds onto the past. Prediction of how precedent will be applied then falls on the behavior of the particular court.
In State vs. Oliver the doctrine of strict precedent is applied by the courtroom. The judge stated that it has long been accepted that the court should not interfere in the domestic circle of life, then goes on to say that it is unfair to uniformly bind that custom to every case because each case depends on its unique circumstances. The circumstances of the case showed that Oliver showed cruelty and malice, and he was charged. One can see how the judge paid lip service to the courts of the past while cutting free of precedent to make his decision. In State vs. Mabrey the court used a loose interpretation of precedent. The judge claimed that the ruling of the past stated the court would not interfere in domestic issues as long as they did not bring about violence that caused permanent injury. Here one can see how the judge used language of a past case without regard to the present facts of the current case. There was no permanent injury, as in the other cases, but there was a threat of death. This threat posed a danger in the future of the wife, but was disregarded in order to remain in line with previous rulings.

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