precedent

  • A court decision in an earlier case with facts and legal issues similar to a dispute currently before a court. Judges will generally "follow precedent" - meaning that they use the principles established in earlier cases to decide new cases that have similar facts and raise similar legal issues. A judge will disregard precedent if a party can show that the earlier case was wrongly decided, or that it differed in some significant way from the current case.

    United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit 1
    See also case law, opinion

1United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Commonly Used Terms - U.S. Courts, http://­www.ca9.uscourts.gov/­content/­view.php?pk_id=0000000237 (last accessed May 28, 2009).