Case Law and the Doctrine of Precedent

Topics: Stare decisis, Appeal, Precedent Pages: 5 (1722 words) Published: October 12, 2013
In this essay I will be discussing several points of interest that will help me answer the given question. My first point is on the Hierarchy of the courts. In this point I will explain the different 'levels' there are in the English system. My second point is Stare Decisis and what it is. This point is made up of several questions that I will answer; why have binding precedent? What has to be followed? That is Obiter Dicta and Ratio Decidendi? What is persuasive precedent and who uses it and how it is used? When is a judge bound? Can the Stare Decisis be avoided? And lastly: How has Stare Decisis handicapped the development of the English law?

The hierarchy of the courts
The English system is made up of a hierarchy of courts. Hierarchal means that the courts which are high in the system hear appeals from the ones below them. The decisions made in the higher courts are of great importance. The bottom courts are known as foot soldiers and are at the bottom of the system. Some courts in this rank are the Magistrates court, the Youth court, the Coroners court and the County court. These courts hear cases daily and are which the average person will find themselves in for debt, injuries, car accidents and low level criminal offences. They are of a good amount of importance because they make decisions for justice daily. These courts however have little impact on the development of law except as a source for cases which may then be heard or appealed to higher courts. Since these courts are the lowest they do not bind any other court except themselves.

There are two courts on the higher level. The High court which deals with cases pertaining to civil matter of unlimited value and the Crown court which deals with serious criminal offences. The High court has four sections: the Chancery division which deals with matters pertaining to equity, the Family division which deals with family matters, the Queen's Bench division which deals with civil matters and the Divisional court who hears the appeals from civil prerogatives of the lower courts. The High court is not bound by its previous decisions but it can make precedents for the courts below it. Like the High court, the Crown court is bound by all higher courts. It doesn’t make binding precedents but their judgments form persuasive precedents when a High court judge sits in the Crown court. It also is not bound by its past decisions.

The Court of Appeal is the next step higher. This court is the most important of the hierarchy even though it is not at the top of the system. This court is important because it hears appeals from lower courts in both the criminal and civil matters. There are three judges who sit to hear an appeal. Two of these judges must be Lord of Justices of Appeal. The third judge could either be a judge from the High Court or the Supreme Court. The name given to the head of the Court of Appeal is the Master of the Rolls.

The Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the hierarchy. It hears cases on appeal from the Court of Appeal. Sometimes the appeal will come straight from the High Court or the Crown Court. This only happens if there is a case which involves the important question of the law. The people who sit in the Supreme Court are called Justices of the Supreme Court. There are at least three to five Justices who sit to hear appeals. It the case is very important than seven sit to hear the case. There can only be at most twelve Justices in the Supreme Court.

The Privy Council is the highest court in the Commonwealth nations and civil appeals. Some of the judges who sit in the Privy Council are those which make up the Supreme Court. The Privy Council is not a part of the hierarchal system and so its decisions do not bind the English Courts. Even though the decision of the Privy Council does not bind English courts, the judges are the same that make up the Supreme Court of England; there is a section of the Supreme Court that is...
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