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As I’ve recently quoted otherwise on this platform, “In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a legal case that establishes a principle or rule. This principle or rule is then used by the court or other judicial bodies use when deciding later cases with similar issues or facts … The Latin term stare decisis is the doctrine of legal precedent.”

I note that any prior ruling could be binding or a principle and therefore persuasive. Therefore precedent may not be binding but be used to persuade a court to rule in a certain fashion. This is exactly as I’ve used prior cases dozens of times in court when testifying in auction-related cases: to establish an argument or persuade a judge or jury.

Of course for a prior case to be used, the subject case must have similar issues or facts — but only to an extent. In fact, what we’ve seen is that the aforementioned facts can relate to a particular part of the auction case with other factors dissimilar. In other words, it doesn’t necessarily need to be the same case at all — and it’s often not.

There isn’t that much auction case law. As I’m known to say, “I suppose auctioneers are either fairly good at behaving and/or good at not ending up in court.” Either way, there isn’t that much precedent out there so other similar cases are often used out of partial necessity.

Further, a prior case could be persuasive or not … I’ve seen many used to persuade a judge or jury and I’ve seen a few that didn’t. There are maybe no absolutes — so to speak — in any of the courtrooms around the country. I’m not an attorney, but I have always had an interest in law — especially case law and it has certainly come in handy helping attorneys.

As we’ve noted prior, winning in court is much better than losing, but staying out of court is best. Here’s that writing: https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/auctioneers-you-want-win-in-court-or-stay-out-of-court/. Settling a case is usually better than rolling the dice in court even if you think you’re on the right side of the issue.

In a prior writing, we disclosed that we used the Supreme Court of the United States auction case Mottram v. United States (Mottram) to help persuade a judge that “as-is” requires adequate (reasonable) inspection opportunity. Incidentally, opposing counsel vehemently objected, but the judge allowed my testimony and “our side” prevailed.

You see, in Mottram because the property was open for reasonable inspection — even though the catalog showed 100-times as much Garlock packing, the buyer (Mr. Mottram) was held to his purchase because the United States sold this property “as-is.” Does anyone wonder if we would have had this same ruling without reasonable inspection opportunity?

Courts and trials involve a lot of attempted persuasion. All attorneys try to persuade the judge or jury to believe them and their client(s.) Expert witnesses try to persuade the judge or jury to believe their perspective on the case and/or particular facts. The nearly unmatched power prior cases bring to those arguments of persuasion is many times significant if not crucial.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and America’s Auction Academy. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by the The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.