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Law Library

Sources of Law and Types of Authority: The Work of the Judiciary

The Nature of Courts

Courts are reactive and not proactive

U.S. courts operate under a precedential system, under the doctrine of stare decisis.

  • Stare Decisis [Latin "to stand by things decided"]
    • The doctrine of precedent, under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation
    • Requires courts to follow the rulings of higher courts in their jurisdiction

Case Reporters in Print

A Printed Reporter - Click image to enlarge

Authoritative Texts: Case Law Reporters

  • Opinions are published online and in books called “reporters
  • For the federal courts, each court level has its own reporter.
  • For state and local courts, there is generally no reporter for the trial level, as there are usually no opinions issued at that level.
    • This means no published opinions on trials that you would find online or in the library

Supreme Court Case

Click image to enlarge