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Judges and the law
Judges and the law

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3.4.2 Distinguishing

In comparison with the mechanism of overruling, which is rarely used, the main device for avoiding binding precedent is that of distinguishing. As has been previously stated, the ratio decidendi of any case is based upon the material facts of the case. This opens up the possibility that a court may regard the facts of the case before it as significantly different from the facts of a cited precedent, so it will not find itself bound to follow that precedent. Judges use the device of distinguishing where, for some reason, they are unwilling to follow a particular precedent. Law reports provide many examples of strained distinctions where a court has quite evidently not wanted to follow an authority that it would otherwise have been bound by.