Doctrine in the United States

A principle or rule of law. Doctrine is normally defined or set by a court decision and used in subsequent cases raising the same legal questions. The term doctrine is used in reference to legal precedents. The subject matter of the rule is often captured in a doctrinal title, e.g., the judicial immunity doctrine. While narrowly scoped principles may be called doctrine, the term is usually reserved for broader principles of substantial policy importance. The Exclusionary Rule (Judicial Effects and Policies) is such a doctrine. That doctrine requires that improperly obtained evidence is inadmissible in criminal trials. Similarly, the preferred position doctrine holds that legislative enactments that affect First Amendment rights be scrutinized very closely by courts.

See Also

Exclusionary Rule (Judicial Effects and Policies) Precedence (Judicial Effects and Policies) Preferred Position Doctrine (Judicial Effects and Policies).

Analysis and Relevance

Doctrine is established through the convergence of several elements or influences. Once established, doctrine remains intact, expands over time, or eventually contracts and is replaced. One doctrine often spins off from another doctrine. A question before a court is distinguished from the question already addressed by a line of legal precedents, and a separate doctrine is established. The factors that most heavily influence the development of doctrine are the political setting and the policy priorities of the individual judges hearing a case. An example is the separate-but-equal doctrine developed by the Court in Plessyv. Ferguson (163 U.S. 537: 1896). The doctrine held that racial segregation does not necessarily violate the Equal Protection Clause. So long as separate facilities were equivalent for both races, state-mandated segregation was constitutional. This doctrine survived into the 1950s when a Supreme Court, composed of different justices with very different value orientations and operating in a different political environment, reexamined the issue. The doctrine was formally abandoned by the Court in Brown v. Board of Education I (347 U.S. 483: 1954).

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Doctrine from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Doctrine in the United States


United States Constitution

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, about its article titled DOCTRINEIn constitutional law as in other pursuits of revelation, initiates commonly refer to “doctrines”: bodies of rules or principles either authoritatively declared or systematically advocated. Some such doctrines have been simple; the original package doctrine is an example. Others, such as
(read more about Constitutional law entries here).

Some Constitutional Law Popular Entries

Doctrine: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Doctrine. This part provides references, in relation to Doctrine, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Doctrine by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Doctrine and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Doctrine or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Doctrine and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Doctrine. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Doctrine should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Doctrine when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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