You may have heard of case law, but what does the term actually mean?
Case law refers to legal principles developed through judicial decisions. As opposed to laws contained in statutes and enacted by the legislative process, case law comes about through the aggregation of court opinions interpreting and applying the law to individual cases. In the U.S. legal system, the rulings of higher courts are binding on lower courts. Courts also adhere to stare decisis, which generally requires that courts follow the precedent set by previous court decisions.
What does case law do? Here are a few important examples: