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Appellate court opinions, carefully indexed and preserved in law libraries, are a tremendous resource for historians and social scientists. In the theory of the common law, these opinions are the law; they stand in the center of the legal system. Their power is enhanced by the common law doctrine that links them in a chain of influence and causation–the doctrine of precedent. Their precedential value means that they are also powerful resources for the practicing lawyer–often the basic material with which he works.

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