Case law, also used interchangeably with common law, is law that is based on precedents, that is the judicial decisions from previous cases, rather than law based on constitutions, statutes, or regulations. Case law uses the detailed facts of a case that have been resolved by courts or similar tribunals. These past decisions are called "case law", or precedent. Stare decisis—a Latin phrase meaning "let the decision stand"—is the principle by which judges are bound to such past decisions, drawing on established judicial authority to formulate their positions. (Full article...)
Thomas Bonham v College of Physicians, commonly known as Dr. Bonham's Case or simply Bonham's Case, was a case decided in 1610 by the Court of Common Pleas in England, under Sir Edward Coke, the court's Chief Justice, in which it was ruled that Dr. Bonham had been wrongfully imprisoned by the College of Physicians for practising medicine without a licence. The case is notable because Coke argued in the decision's rationale that "in many cases, the common law will control Acts of Parliament", the act of parliament in question being the "College of Physicians Act 1553" which gave the college the right to imprison. The meaning of this phrase has been disputed over the years. According to one interpretation, Coke intended the kind of judicial review that would later develop in the United States, but other scholars believe that Coke meant only to construe a statute, not to challenge parliamentary sovereignty. If Coke intended the former, he may have later changed his view. The statement by Coke is sometimes considered to be an obiter dictum (a statement made 'by the way'), rather than part of the ratio decidendi (rationale for the decision) of the case. Dr. Bonham's attorneys had argued that imprisonment was reserved for malpractice not illicit practice, with Coke agreeing in the majority opinion.
After an initial period during which Coke's controversial view enjoyed some support but no statutes were declared void, Bonham's Case was thrown aside as a precedent, in favour of the growing doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty. William Blackstone, one of the most prominent supporters of the doctrine, argued that Parliament is the sovereign lawmaker, preventing the common law courts from throwing aside or reviewing statutes in the fashion that Coke had suggested. Parliamentary sovereignty is now the accepted judicial doctrine in the legal system of England and Wales.
Bonham's Case was met with mixed reactions at the time, with King James I and his Lord Chancellor, Lord Ellesmere, both deeply unhappy with it. In 1613 Coke was removed from the Common Pleas and sent to the King's Bench. He was suspended from duties in 1616 and in October 1617 James I demanded an explanation from Coke for this case, with Coke affirming the validity of his reasoning. Academics in the 19th and the 20th centuries have been scarcely more favourable and called it "a foolish doctrine alleged to have been laid down extra-judicially" and simply an "abortion". In the United States, Coke's decision met with a better reaction. During the legal and public campaigns against the writs of assistance and the 1765 Stamp Act, Bonham's Case was used as a justification for nullifying the legislation, but by 1772, Blackstone's views had gained acceptance. The 1803 case Marbury v. Madison formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States, under Article III of the US Constitution, with the case having both parallels and important differences with Dr Bonham's case. Academics have used this connection to argue that Coke's views form the basis of judicial review in the United States, but there is no consensus on the issue. (Full article...)