Hypothetical situation:

An US court decides a case for which there is no statute nor previous court decision (precedent) which would provide how the case should be decided (resolved). So the court (judge) decides it in own way which the judge believes is "the most fair". This would establish a new precedent (I assume).

Then a new legislation (statute) is passed and it provides that the issue (case) shall be resolved (decided) differently. Does this statute take precedence over (overrule) the previous court precedent?

1 Answer 1


This would establish a new precedent (I assume)

You assume correctly. However, a precedent is only binding on lower courts and persuasive on courts at the same level so a trial judge precedent is not very far-reaching.

Does this statute takes precedence over (overrules) the previous court precedent?

Not exactly. The precedent was good for the old (common) law. Now the law has changed and the old precedent is irrelevant.

Courts only interpret the law and legislatures are free to change the law within the limits of their constitutional power. Indeed, a fair number of laws are enacted because the legislature does not agree with how courts are ruling.

  • 2
    I think this answer is intended to mean that if the events that lead to legal proceedings happened before the new law became effective, they would be decided as if the new law did not exist, and any cases that were decided before the new law became effective are undisturbed. But the new law overrides the precedent for events occurring after the effective date of the new law. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 14:13
  • 1
    As an example of the last sentence, cnn.com/2014/03/07/justice/massachusetts-upskirt-bill/… describes a case where the court ruled that there was no law against upskirt photography on a Wednesday. The bill criminalizing it was passed on Thursday and signed on Friday. Commented Feb 1, 2019 at 23:00
  • Of course, this assumes that the precedent is a common law precedent and not case law interpreting an applicable constitution that has priority over the statute.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 0:50

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