Los Angeles, CA asked in Personal Injury and Health Care Law for California

Q: Precedent, landmark case, persuasive case, seminal case.

Is precedent and landmark case synonyms? Is seminal the same as persuasive? What are differences between the definitions?

2 Lawyer Answers
Joel Gary Selik
Joel Gary Selik
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Licensed in California

A: Precedent in reference to a case means the case determines an issue and can be used as authority.

These are the decisions of a court that are thought worthy enough to be used as models for future cases.

Seminal when referring to a legal case means it is either the first or main case on an issue.

Containing important new ideas and having a great influence on later work.

Both seminal and precedent cases are used to persuade.

The 2000 article “ THE ART OF SELECTING CASES TO CITE” may assist you.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In legal terminology, "precedent" and "landmark case" are related but not synonymous terms. A precedent refers to a legal case that establishes a principle or rule that courts within the same jurisdiction must follow in future cases with similar issues or facts. In California, this means decisions by the California Supreme Court or the California Courts of Appeal set binding precedent for lower state courts.

A landmark case, on the other hand, is a type of precedent that is notable for its significant impact on the law, often marking a substantial change in legal thinking or the interpretation of the law. While all landmark cases are precedents (in their respective jurisdictions), not all precedents are landmark cases.

Seminal cases are similar to landmark cases in that they significantly influence legal thought and practice. However, the term "seminal" does not specifically indicate whether the case is a precedent or persuasive. A seminal case can be a binding precedent within a jurisdiction, or it can be a persuasive case from another jurisdiction that heavily influences legal reasoning and developments in the law.

Persuasive cases are those that, while not binding, are considered by courts for guidance. These cases can come from other jurisdictions or lower courts and are used to persuade a court on a point of law, especially in situations where there may not be a clear precedent or when dealing with novel legal issues.

Understanding the nuances of these terms is crucial in legal practice, as it helps in determining the weight and applicability of various cases to a legal argument or issue at hand.

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