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precedent

1) n. a prior reported opinion of an appeals court which establishes the legal rule (authority) in the future on the same legal question decided in the prior judgment. Thus, "the rule in Fishbeck v. Gladfelter is precedent for the issue before the court in this case." The doctrine that a lower court must follow a precedent is called stare decisis 2) adj. before, as in the term "condition precedent," which is a situation which must exist before a party to a contract has to perform.

See also: stare decisis 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications