Understanding Judicial Decisions that Do Not Cite Precedent

From the abstract for A Rose by Any Other Name: Understanding Judicial Decisions that Do Not Cite Precedent, 15 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 563 (2018) by Kawin Ethayarajh, Andrew James Green and Albert Yoon:

In common-law countries, legal precedent serves as a foundation of judicial opinions. Judges cite precedent to explain their decision, and it is this use of precedent that threads one decision to another. The Supreme Court in India stands in contrast to its counterparts in other countries in that it annually decides not dozens, but thousands, of cases. Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly half the Court’s decisions do not cite any precedent at all. This article examines this phenomenon, specifically how it affects judges’ commitment to the common law, in substance if not in form. Examining every Court decision for the period 1950–2010, we textually analyze the opinions using machine learning to determine what connection, if any, exists between cases. We find that it is possible to accurately model how the Court cites to existing precedent and that even for decisions without any citations, there is almost always at least one prior decision the Court could have cited. Our finding suggest that time and resource demands are primarily responsible for the failure to cite relevant precedent, but that the Court acts efficiently, given the constraints placed on it, in deciding in which decisions to include precedent. This research, however, leaves unanswered whether the Court provides sufficient guidance to lower courts.

— Joe

2 thoughts on “Understanding Judicial Decisions that Do Not Cite Precedent

  1. Jacquelyn N;Jai August 29, 2018 at 4:06 pm Reply

    It is my personal opinion that if a judge does not cite the premise it is relying upon, that is a bias or personal opinion, and therefore not s/he is not implementing well established law, or legislation for which s/he/he does not have the discretion to break. I’m not sure if it should be an abuse of discretion, error or some other basis for which it may be vacated and/or reversed on an appeal.

  2. Jacquelyn N;Jai August 29, 2018 at 4:09 pm Reply

    Correction: -s/he does not have the discretion to break

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