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
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
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