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Legal Precedent: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis

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  • William M. Landes
  • Richard A. Posner

Abstract

The use of precedents to create rules of legal obligation has, to our knowledge, received little theoretical or empirical analysis. This paper presents and tests empirically an economic approach to legal precedent that is derived mainly from the analysis of capital formation and investment. We treat the body of legal precedents created by judicial decisions in prior periods as a capital stock that yields a flow of information services which depreciates over time as new conditions arise that were not foreseen by the framers of the existing precedents. New (and replacement) capital is created by investment in the production of precedents.

Suggested Citation

  • William M. Landes & Richard A. Posner, 1976. "Legal Precedent: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 0146, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0146
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