What is Case Law & Why is it Important?
Case Law is a primary source of law.
Primary sources of law can also include: statutes, constitutions, rules and regulations. Case law, also known as common law, is the body of law created by judicial decisions.
Case Law is created by the Judicial Branch. Statutes and Constitutions are created by the Legislative Branch. Rules and Regulations are created by the Executive Branch.
The United States' common law judicial system adheres to the doctrine of stare decisis, which requires judges to follow the legal precedent established in previous cases. Therefore, in order to determine what the law is regarding a particular point of law, it is crucial to be able to locate previous controlling and relevant case decisions.
Key Numbers and Headnotes
Key Numbers: These are unique to products published by West. They represent a specific subtopic within an area of law. They are uniform throughout all West Publications, and are therefore useful in finding primary and secondary resources on the point of law you are researching.
Headnotes: Lexis has a similar feature called Headnotes which show the key legal points of a case. These can be found at the beginning of cases and can be followed to find other cases similar to yours.
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