‘Judicial decisions’, said Hersch Lauterpacht, ‘particularly when published, become part and parcel of the legal sense of the community.’ Not everyone rejoices. Writing in 1942, Lord Wright remarked that one effect of the destruction inflicted during the war on ‘law libraries has been to reduce the number of authorities quoted in arguments in Court. Professor Goodhart’, he cheerfully added, ‘has assured me that this will conduce to the improvement of the law.’ Drastic action is not yet needed at The Hague; but beyond that it would not be prudent to prophesy. ‘The practising international lawyer of today’, remarked O'Connell, ‘… selects as his sharpest and most valued tool the judicial decisions which will support his case.’ This monograph is devoted to the precedential aspects of the most important of these, namely, decisions of the World Court itself; the prominence of the role played by them is all the more striking when it is considered that, as compared with the situation at municipal law, the number of cases decided by the Court is small.
Comparison may, of course, be made with several legal systems. If so wide an exercise is not undertaken, this is because, at the founding of the Permanent Court of International Justice, the schools of thought which were influential with the framers of its Statute were two, namely, the Continental and the common law schools.