Skip to main content
Select Source:

Case Law

CASE LAW

Legal principles enunciated and embodied in judicial decisions that are derived from the application of particular areas of law to the facts of individual cases.

As opposed to statutes—legislative acts that proscribe certain conduct by demanding or prohibiting something or that declare the legality of particular acts—case law is a dynamic and constantly developing body of law. Each case contains a portion wherein the facts of the controversy are set forth as well as the holding and dicta—an explanation of how the judge arrived at a particular conclusion. In addition, a case might contain concurring and dissenting opinions of other judges.

Since the U.S. legal system has a common-law system, higher court decisions are binding on lower courts in cases with similar facts that raise similar issues. The concept of precedent, or stare decisis, means to follow or adhere to previously decided cases in judging the case at bar. It means that appellate case law should be considered as binding upon lower courts.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Case Law." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Case Law." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/case-law

"Case Law." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/case-law

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

case law

case law • n. (also caselaw) the law as established by the outcome of former cases.Compare with common law, statutory law.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"case law." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"case law." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/case-law

"case law." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved August 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/case-law

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.