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Common law

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Common law is a type of legal system in which the law is created and/or refined by courts on a case-by-case basis. When there is no authoritative statement of the law, common law judges have the authority and duty to "make" law by creating precedent. The body of precedent is called "common law" and it binds future decisions. In future cases, when parties disagree on what the law is, an "ideal" common law court looks to past precedential decisions of relevant courts. If a similar dispute has been resolved in the past, the court is bound to follow the reasoning used in the prior decision (this principle is known as stare decisis). If, however, the court finds that the current dispute is fundamentally distinct from all previous cases, it will resolve the matter itself, with reference to general legal guidelines. Thereafter, the new decision becomes precedent, and will bind future courts under the principle of stare decisis.