The Court System

Judiciary Act of 1789

What opinions have precedential value?

It is majority opinions or the main opinion of the Court that has precedential value, because those opinions establish precedents for other courts to follow. Courts follow the principle of stare decisis, which is Latin for “let the decision stand.” This means that courts generally will follow past decisions unless there are compelling reasons not to follow the past decision.

Also, in our legal system, the decisions of higher courts are mandatory authority or precedent for lower courts in that jurisdiction. For example, lower federal courts have to follow U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Likewise, a federal district court in North Carolina would have to follow a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. A federal district court in Florida would have to follow a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


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