Vertical Precedents in Formal Models of Precedential Constraint

Artificial Intelligence and Law, February 2019

60 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2020

Date Written: February 8, 2019

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, Precedent, Common law, Default reasoning

Suggested Citation

Broughton, Gabe, Vertical Precedents in Formal Models of Precedential Constraint (February 8, 2019). Artificial Intelligence and Law, February 2019, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3700478

Gabe Broughton (Contact Author)

Princeton University

Department of Philosophy
1879 Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

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