Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunals in the course of deciding cases, in which the law was analyzed using these cases to resolve ambiguities for deciding current cases. These past decisions are called "case law", or precedent. Stare decisis—a Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand"—is the principle by which judges are bound to such past decisions. These judicial interpretations are distinguished from statutory law, which are codes enacted by legislative bodies, and regulatory law, which are established by executive agencies based on statutes. In some jurisdictions, case law can be applied to ongoing adjudication; for example, criminal proceedings or family law.
In common law countries (including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), the term case law is a near-exact synonym for common law. It is used for judicial decisions of selected appellate courts, courts of first instance, agency tribunals, and other bodies discharging adjudicatory functions. (Full article...)
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For examples of noted cases, see Lists of case law. Following is one example of such a noted case:
Ashford v Thornton (1818) 106 ER 149 is an English law case in the Court of King's Bench which upheld the right of the defendant to trial by battle on a private appeal from an acquittal for murder.
In 1817, Abraham Thornton was charged with the murder of Mary Ashford. Thornton had met Ashford at a dance and had walked with her from the event. The next morning, she was found drowned in a pit with little evidence of violence. Public opinion was heavily against Thornton, but the jury quickly acquitted him and found him not guilty of rape.
Mary's brother William Ashford launched an appeal, and Thornton was rearrested. Thornton claimed the right to trial by battle, a medieval usage that had never been repealed by Parliament. Ashford argued that the evidence against Thornton was overwhelming and that he was thus ineligible to wage battle.
The court decided that the evidence against Thornton was not overwhelming, and that trial by battle was a permissible option under law. Ashford declined the offer of battle, however, and therefore Thornton was freed from custody. Appeals such as Ashford's were abolished by statute in 1819, and with them the right to trial by battle. Thornton emigrated to the United States. (Full article...) (more...)