Common law developed in the judicial system of England and its colonies before 1776. Statutory law refers to the body of law that is enacted by state and federal legislatures. Common law is not in any particular form; it consists of quotable statements taken from relevant opinions by prior judges, as well as ancient statutes, and is often summarized in legal treatises. Statutory law is found in the current published laws of each jurisdiction and is relatively concise. Although most states have adopted common law by legislative decree, state legislatures do not feel obligated to pass statutes consistent with common law, and inconsistent statutes supersede common law. Only in areas where the legislature has not acted does common law serve as the primary authority. For example, the Uniform Commercial Code in each state changed some rules of common law previously in effect. 5. Stare decisis is a Latin phrase meaning “to stand on decided cases.” In the King’s court of medieval England, it became customary for judges to refer to past decisions (precedents) in deciding cases involving similar issues. Over time, because of application of the doctrine of stare decisis to issues that came before the courts, a body of jurisprudence was formed that came to be known as the “common law” – because it was common to the English realm. Common law was applied in the American colonies prior to the War of Independence and was adopted by the American states following the Revolution. Common law continues to be applied today in all cases except those falling under specific state or federal statutory law. The doctrine of stare decisis is fundamental to the development of our legal tradition because without the acceptance and application of this doctrine, the evolution of any objective legal concepts – and thus a legal “tradition” would have been impossible. 6. A majority opinion is a written opinion outlining the views of the majority of the judges or justices deciding a particular case. A concurring opinion is a written opinion by a judge or justice who agrees with the conclusion reached by the majority of the court but not necessarily the legal reasoning that led to the conclusion. A concurrence will voice alternative or additional reasons as to why the conclusion is warranted or clarify certain legal points concerning the issue. A dissenting opinion is a written opinion in which a judge or justice, who does not agree with the conclusion reached by the majority of the court, expounds his or her views on the case. A concurrence or dissent may be used by another court later to support its position on a similar issue.


8. the state of Florida would have jurisdiction over the defendant.” In support of the court’s role. and its status as an alternative to court settlement of disputes. and because legislatures have given common law the same force and effect as statutes. An arbitrator’s decision has the binding force of law only because the two parties in an arbitration proceeding agree (by contract) to be legally bound by the arbitrator’s decision. particularly when the foundation for a precedent was the Constitution. If a person feels that an arbitrator’s opinion is unjust. each has a unique set of values. In some cases. the suit could be brought in federal court on the basis of diversity of citizenship. and therefore the courts feel that it can be changed by judges. it may be noted that although judges attempt to be free of bias. and philosophies that color her opinions. a court can depart from a precedent if it decides that the precedent should no longer be followed. Finally. do not take such a view. Courts do not always treat common law with the same deference as statutory law because common law is judge-made law. the court’s role is to “make the law. speeds judicial business. judges should. Courts. Most courts and legislatures. 2 . and reinforces our notions of justice. In the American legal system. which is regarded as final in all cases except where serious misconduct or corruption can be proved. curbs the arbitrariness of judges. Marya can bring suit in all three courts. however. The trucking firm did business in Florida.000. intellectual abilities. however. and the accident occurred there. Because the firm was headquartered in Georgia and had its principal place of business in that state.7. Because the common law has been adopted in most jurisdictions by state statutes. a court must establish the law on the question at issue. are very reluctant to judge the validity of an arbitrator’s decision. In all of these instances. because the amount of controversy exceeds $50. correction of an earlier decision through legislation is practically impossible. A court can overturn a statute that it believes is in violation of the Constitution. CHAPTER 2 1. technically. it may be pointed out that technological or social changes can outdate a precedent or a statute. The doctrine of precedent introduces certainty into legal affairs that can lend itself to effective planning of private and business activities. have no more authority to overrule common law than they have to overrule statutory law. rests on this underlying agreement between the parties to be bound by the results. If there is not precedent on which to base a decision. 4. Thus. Courts do not lightly make use of their prerogative. Against the court’s role. provides attorneys with a settled basis from which to advise their clients. Marya could also sue in a Georgia court. The success of arbitration. that person may appeal the dispute to a court.

4. but not to male topless entertainment. and in general consumption magazine photography without involving any sexual suggestion. 5. the Constitution divides power so that each level has some domain in which it is dominant and some guarantee of its authority. The court concluded that “New York City’s objective of preventing crime. The appellate court pointed out that gender-based distinctions are acceptable in circumstances in which the two genders are not similarly situated. For example. the executive. each of which performs a separate function. temporary employees until its backlog of orders is filled. What constitutes “reasonable accommodations” usually varies depending on the specific circumstances of each case. By distributing functions among local governments and the national government in a federal form. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision.CHAPTER 4 3. it violated the equal protection clause. “The male chest has been routinely exposed on beaches. and preserving the quality of urban life are important. but not male. and the ballet. in the context of its overall regulation of sexually explicitly commercial establishments. this ordinance’s classification was subject to intermediate scrutiny. We also believe that the [ordinance’s] regulation of female. The U. In contrast. in public sporting events. As a gender-based distinction. in drafting the ordinance. The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiffs appealed. If the employer fires Placer without first attempting a reasonable accommodation of his religious needs.” Male topless establishments were not among those found to have negative effects. topless dancing. the employer might arrange for Placer to work longer than eight hours a day during the rest of the week to compensate for his not working on Saturday.S. but each has power to limit the action of the other two. To prevent the national government from using its power arbitrarily. public exposure of the female breast is rare under the conventions of our society and 3 . the employers should consider the reasonableness of its demands and consider alternative efforts that might be undertaken to meet its deadlines. The plaintiffs argued that because the ordinance applied to female topless entertainment. maintaining property values. is substantially related to the achievement of New York City’s objectives. through a system of checks and balances. No branch may exercise the authority of another branch. the Constitution provides for 3 branches of government (the legislative. If an employee’s right to the free exercise of her religion conflicts with the demands of an employer. Or perhaps it would be in the firm’s best interest to hire additional. very likely a court would hold that the firm violated Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964.” The court noted that. the city regulated “only the types of establishments that have been found to produce negative impacts on the communities in which they are located. Here. and the judicial). the employer must “reasonably accommodate” the employee’s religious needs.

The state intermediate appellate court initially determined that. the ordinance regulated only his conduct. It is therefore permissible for New York City to classify female toplessness differently from the exhibition of the naked male chest. in playing a car sound system loud enough to violate the ordinance. Holland was not actually expressing himself. not his expression. as to Holland. The court held that the First Amendment “protect[s] the communication.” The court also pointed out that “[t]his ordinance has clear guidelines.almost invariable conveys sexual overtones. This does not constitute a denial of equal protection. The state intermediate appellate court affirmed the lower court’s decision. but that noise is subject to regulation.” The court concluded that Holland failed to show a “real and substantial threat to expression in relation to the ordinance’s legitimate sweep. A person of ordinary intelligence knows what it means for sound to be ‘audible’ at more than 50 feet away. The court dismissed Holland’s complaint. and expression of someone attempting to broadcast music or another type of message.” 6. This meant that.” 4 . and he appealed. (He was only listening).

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