Legal cases

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Legal cases are in a general sense disputes between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based on either civil or criminal law. In most legal cases there are one or more accusers and one or more defendants. In some instances, a legal case may occur between parties that are not in opposition, but require a legal ruling to formally establish some legal fact, such as a divorce.


  • Great cases like hard cases make bad law. For great cases are called great, not by reason of their importance in shaping the law of the future, but because of some accident of immediate overwhelming interest which appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgement.

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 20-23.
  • Many of the old cases are strange and absurd : so also are some of the modern ones.
    • Wilmot, J., Pillans v. Van Mierop (1764), 3 Burr. Part IV., p. 1671.
  • Some modern cases have in my opinion gone too far.
    • Lord Kenyon, Walford v. Duchess de Pienne (1797), 2 Esp. 555.
  • In our law every case hath its stand or fall from a particular reason or circumstance.
    • Crewe, C.J., Sury v. Pigot (1625), Popham, 166. See also Tudor's L. C. on Real Property (2d. ed.), 139.
  • Every case stands upon its own bottom.
    • Sir F. Pemberton, L.C.J., Fitzharris' Case (1681), 8 How. St. Tr. 280.
  • I have the strongest disinclination, as I believe every other Judge has, that any case should be decided otherwise than upon its merits.
    • Pearson, J., Haigh v. Haigh (1885), 31 L. R. C. D. 482. Also per Willes, J., Taylor v. Fisher and others (1774), Lofft. 769; also per Lord Halsbury, L.C., In re Bulwer Lytton's Will (1888), L. R. 38 C. D. 22.
  • The Court has not time to indulge in the discussion of imaginary cases.
    • Lord Langdale, M.R., Sidebotham v. Barrington (1841), 3 Beav. 529.
  • We are obliged to follow settled established rules already fixed by former determinations in cases of the same kind.
    • Foster, J., Rex v. Wheatly (1760), 2 Burr. Part IV. 1129.
  • We must not overturn, the cases.
    • Buller, J., Ablett v. Ellis (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull. 249.
  • The use of cases is to establish principles; if the cases decide different from the principles, I must follow the principles, not the decisions.
    • Lord Kenyon, Duke of Leeds v. New Radnor (1788), 2 Brown's Rep. (by Belt), 339.
  • Pray let us so resolve cases here that they may stand with the reason of mankind, when they are debated abroad. Shall that be reason here that is not reason in any part of the world besides?
    • Lord Nottingham, Duke of Norfolk's Case (1680), 3 Ch. Ca. 33.3.
  • The reason and spirit of cases make law; not the letter of particular precedents.
  • The case in Levinz was about an hundred years ago: Put a marginal note, and it will serve an hundred years hence.
  • Never trust any note cited, when not consonant with the general principles of law, justice, and equity. It must be wrong.
  • A case may not be the less doubtful because I entertain no doubt on the subject; but that is doubtful concerning which learned men differ.
    • Heath, J., Cox v. Morgan (1801), 1 Bos. & Pull. 413.
  • This is an English case, which it is my duty to decide according to the principles of English law.
    • Lord Watson, Ewing v. Orr Ewing (1883), L. R. 9 App. Ca. 48.
  • I can only regret that I am obliged to give a decision which conflicts with the justice of the case, and wrongs those to whom I would rather that justice should be done.
    • Goulburn, Cr., Ex parte Baldwin, bank. (1860), L. R. L. T. Rep. Vol. 2 (N. S.) 226.
  • I confess that when I am sought to be driven to a conclusion which appears to me unreasonable and unjust, I at once suspect the validity of the premises, even if I can detect no flaw in the reasoning from them.
  • Without an express authority, so strong as not to be gotten over, we ought not to determine a case so much against reason, as that the Parliament should be obliged to interfere to set it right.
    • Lord Mansfield, Mayor, &c. of Colchester v. Seaber (1765), 3 Burr. Part IV., p. 1870.
  • For several reasons we should not depart from these adjudged cases ; but chiefly, from the inconvenience of altering and overturnirig settled determinations. It is best, stare decisis. The overturning settled determinations would be of very bad consequence: they ought not to be shaken.
    • Lord Mansfield, Rex v. Inhabitants of Underbarrow and Bradley-Field (1766), Burrow (Settlement Cases), 548.
  • Whatever might have been my opinion, had this been a new case, I must hold myself bound by decided cases.
  • The only use of authorities, or decided cases, is the establishment of some principle which the Judge can follow out in deciding the case before him. There is, perhaps, nothing more important in our law than that great respect for the authority of decided cases which is shown by our tribunals. Were it not for that, our law would be in a most distressing state of uncertainty, and so strong has that been my view, that when a case has decided a principle, although I myself do not concur in it, and although it has been only a decision of a tribunal of co-ordinate jurisdiction, I have felt bound to follow it when it is of respectable age and has been used by lawyers as settling the law, leaving to the Appellate Court to say that case is wrongly decided if the Appellate Court should so think.
    • Jessel, M.R., In re Hallett's Estate. Knatchbull v. Hallett (1879), L. R. 13 C. D. 712; 49 L. JCh. 419.

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