Binding Precendents

In California, decisions of the California Supreme Court are binding on all lower courts. Decisions of the Courts of Appeal are binding on all trial courts.

"Under the doctrine of stare decisis, all tribunals exercising inferior jurisdiction are required to follow decisions of courts exercising superior jurisdiction. Otherwise, the doctrine of stare decisis makes no sense. The decisions of this court are binding upon and must be followed by all the state courts of California. Decisions of every division of the District Courts of Appeal are binding upon all the justice and municipal courts and upon all the superior courts of this state, and this is so whether or not the superior court is acting as a trial or appellate court. Courts exercising inferior jurisdiction must accept the law declared by courts of superior jurisdiction. It is not their function to attempt to overrule decisions of a higher court." (Auto Equity Sales, Inc. v. Superior Court (1962) 57 Cal.2d 450, 455)

However, as the following discussion shows, decisions of the Courts of Appeal are not binding on other Courts of Appeal. Nevertheless, the Courts of Appeal often find decisions of other Courts of Appeal to be persuasive and will typcially follow them.

Date sent: 24 Sep 97

I am working on an appeal in the 2nd appellate district of the California Court of Appeal, division 5. The other side argued in their brief that a decision from division 2 of that same court is not binding on division 5. Are they right?

Does anyone have any precedent to show that cases decided in one district are binding on other panels in that same district?

Also, what about if the case came from a different district?

Date sent: Thu, 25 Sep 97

No DCA is obligated to follow any other DCA decision, even from the same district/division. It ain't like the federal circuits.

Date sent: Thu, 25 Sep 97


Even the same panel can decide they were wrong on the issue last time they discussed it. BUT...., look to USSC for their respect for stare decisis and the sound policy reasons why we should not lightly change course on an issue. No other court gives better lip service to the concept and sometimes the best you can get is lip service.

Date sent: Thu, 25 Sep 97

The statement [from Auto Equity Sales, cited above] that the decisions of the Courts of Appeal are binding on all justice, municipal, and superior courts implies that they are not binding on the other Courts of Appeal.

But does anyone know of a case that explicitly states this?

Date sent: Thu, 25 Sep 97

Decisions of divisions of a court of appeal are not binding on other divisions in that district. See, for example, Theresa Enterprises, Inc. v. Davis (1978) 81 Cal.App.3d 940 at p. 947.

I recently briefed a case in which the opposition argued on petition for rehearing that another division's (Div. 3, 2nd District) holding on the issue should be followed, but even they conceded that the decision was not binding. Div. 6, 2nd Dist. declined to follow the Div. 3 case.

The above discussion was taken from the California Appellate Law Discussion list and edited.

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