1 Legal institutions


The main principle in law is that of precedence, which is the idea of following old decisions (made by that judge, or judges before them).

“But how do we know such oooold decisions are right?,” Mandy asked, “what about if those decisions were made incorrectly?”

“Judges generally delineate hours on such questions, and include reasoning with them,” Jamie commented, “judges leave the duty to change the law up to the legislative branch (the government), which the people have democratically vote upon.”

“There are some exceptions though,” Mandy noted, “those judges are known as judicial activists.”

A judge does not generally have an option to change the law, unless they are a superior court. A superior court means a higher court. The court hierarchy in the United Kingdom is as follows:

  • High Court (highest)
  • Supreme Court
  • Magistrates Court
  • District Court (lowest)

So this relates to judge-made law.

For statute/legislation however, there is no rule of precedence. This is therefore the other way to alter law. Parliament can decide to implement whatever law they like, so long as they have a vote of majority in the house (and sometimes an upper house too).

Answering legal questions

To answer a legal problem, use the IRAC formula, i.e.:

Issues: Identify the legal issues that arise from the case

For example, if the passage states, “Miley Cyrus has been travelling using Hannah Airlines. Whilst on the plane, Miley tripped over a bar, and was seriously injured. There is a discovered document that shows complaints were earlier alleviated against the airline regarding the same bar. Miley wishes to seek compensation for her medical expenses.” The legal issues that arise from this case are, “what parties can be held liable for the damages caused to Miley, and what damages can be sought?

Rules: Identify the rules that are relevant to the legal issues

In the example, clearly, Hannah Airlines may be subject to negligence, which is that if it hadn’t taken reasonable steps to ensure the plane was safe up to a requisite standard, it may be liable. Similarly, the maker of the airplane may be subject to negligence.

Apply: Apply the rules to the facts of the problem (this is where students usually go wrong)

In the example, addressing the first point, the question is whether Hannah Airlines failed to meet the requisite standard held up to airlines generally. Given that the airline was made aware of problems with the same bar earlier, it seems as if though Hannah Airlines has failed to meet the requisite standard. As to the second point, the problem with the maker of the airplane is that it is now more remote. It is found in fact that the bar isn’t apart of airplane, and in fact is a custom design made by Hannah Airlines. Therefore, it seems as if though it doesn’t have anything to do with the manufacturer.

Conclusion: Draw a conclusion balancing the propensity of each argument In the example, we therefore draw the summary that it is likely the airline will be liable in negligence, and it is highly unlikely the airplane manufacturer will be liable.

Note I’ve used the words “likely”, “unlikely”, not “they are” or “they are not” liable – because you are just weighing alternatives, and lawyers need to be careful not to misrepresent the law to the clients, so they need to adopt such language.


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