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Vertical precedents in formal models of precedential constraint

  • Gabriel L. BroughtonEmail author
Article
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Abstract

The standard model of precedential constraint holds that a court is equally free to modify a precedent of its own and a precedent of a superior court—overruling aside, it does not differentiate horizontal and vertical precedents. This paper shows that no model can capture the U.S. doctrine of precedent without making that distinction. A precise model is then developed that does just that. This requires situating precedent cases in a formal representation of a hierarchical legal structure, and adjusting the constraint that a precedent imposes based on the relationship of the precedent court and the instant court. The paper closes with suggestions for further improvements of the model.

Keywords

Legal reasoning Factor-based reasoning Default reasoning Precedent 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Alexia Brancato, Beth Dalmut, Adam Elga, John Horty, Gideon Rosen, Michael Smith, and two anonymous referees.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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