Vertical precedents in formal models of precedential constraint

Artificial Intelligence and Law 27 (3):253-307 (2019)

Gabe Broughton
Princeton University
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 Precedent  Legal reasoning  Factor-based reasoning  Default reasoning  Common law
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DOI 10.1007/s10506-019-09244-1
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