It seems that back in the day one relied on law reporters’ reports to be able to study and cite precedential decisions in future cases. A decision being featured in an edition of a law report enables one to formally cite it in a case, and for a judge to verify the citation.
Yet ultimately these reports are created by unofficial private entities who may not report every decision ever made in every court.
Suppose Bob sits in the public gallery of a court that is not a court of record that makes official stenographic transcripts of proceedings as a matter of course and witnesses a decision be handed down.
Then the judge passed away the following month.
The following month after that, Bob is a party to his own case and wishes to cite this decision as a binding precedent of coordinate jurisdiction.
If the precedent is not reported and the judge no longer is with the court and wider world, what realistic way is there to verify the details and facts of the case cited by Bob when the court likely has no written decision on file but only the ultimate resultant one-line verdict/order? In principle in case the fact patterns match this is still a binding precedent that the court must heed and obey (supposing of course that the facts actually do match each other).
So how did/does this (used to) play out? How is the question settled? Even if the judge wasn’t deceased they may have still forgotten in time the details of the case in question.