Quimbee logo
DMCA.com Protection Status

Legal Research and Writing

Hierarchy of Authority

Hierarchy of Authority

Learn about the hierarchy of authority in American law and the structure of the U.S. court system.


The United States is a common law system, which means courts decide disputes and, in so doing, develop legal principles that apply to similar cases in the future. This structure is driven by the legal doctrine of stare decisis, which is Latin for “let the decision stand.” Stare decisis dictates that when a court has formulated a principle of law as applicable to a given set of facts, it and other courts will follow that principle and apply it in future cases where the facts are substantially...