Case Treatment

Fundamental Cases on the Fourth Amendment by Adam J. McKee

It is important to remember that case law is not static.  It is a body of law that changes with each subsequent court decision; sometimes the change is minor, such as when the court clarifies a point.  Sometimes it can be dramatic such as when a landmark case is overturned.  The following are some common treatments of prior cases by appellate courts.

Affirmed:  When Shepardizing a case, this means “On appeal, reconsideration or rehearing, the citing case affirms or adheres to the case you are” Shepardizing.   

Overruled:  When an appellate court overrules the decision of a lower court or its own previous decision, it has the effect of nullifying the case.  A case that has been overruled is no longer good law.  Once a case has been overruled, it can no longer be cited as legal precedent.  In legal research, any time case law is used, the researcher must ask the important question, “Is this case still good law?”  Luckily, legal researchers have finding tools known as citators to aid in answering this question.

 Abrogated as stated in:  According to LexisNexis, “The citing concurring opinion notes that the case you are Shepardizing (TM) has been effectively, but not explicitly, overruled or departed from by an earlier decision.”

Certiorari Denied:  Certiorari, or “Cert.” as it is often abbreviated, means that the court refused to hear a discretionary case on appeal.  In effect, this is a neutral sort of treatment that upholds the decision of the lower court.

 Criticized:  According to LexisNexis, “The citing opinion disagrees with the reasoning/result of the case you are Shepardizing™, although the citing court may not have the authority to materially affect its precedential value.”    

Distinguished:  According to LexisNexis, “The citing case differs from the case you are Shepardizing™, either involving dissimilar facts or requiring a different application of the law.”

Limited:  According to LexisNexis, “In case law, the citing opinion restricts the application of the case you are Shepardizing™, finding its reasoning applies only in specific, limited circumstances.  For statutes, regulations or administrative rulings, the citing reference refuses to extend the statute, regulation or order you are Shepardizing™.” 

Remanded:  This phrase means that an appeals court has returned the remainder of the judgment to the lower court for further proceedings. 

Superseded:  When a case is reconsidered by the court, the new case replaces the old case as valid precedent. 

Vacated:  This means that a higher court has annulled or canceled all or part of a lower court’s judgment.  That part of the lower court decision being vacated should no longer be considered good law.

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Modification History

File Created: 07/30/2018
Last Modified:  08/10/2018


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