precedent adj[Middle French, from Latin praecedent- praecedens , present participle of praecedere to go ahead of, come before]
: prior in time, order, arrangement, or significance see also condition precedent at condition compare subsequent
[pre-səd-nt] n : a judicial decision that should be followed by a judge when deciding a later similar case see also stare decisis compare dictum NOTE: To serve as precedent for a pending case, a prior decision must have a similar question of law and factual situation. If the precedent is from the same or a superior jurisdiction (as the state's supreme court), it is binding upon the court and must be followed; if the precedent is from another jurisdiction (as another state's supreme court), it is considered only persuasive. Precedents may be overruled esp. by the same court that originally rendered the decision.
Source: Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law ©1996. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Published under license with Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.