a priori

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A priori signals an assertion that is based on prior knowledge or intuition. In Latin, the term literally means ‘from [the] former’. An a priori determination is formed prior to investigation. 

For example:

  • In McCulloch v. Maryland, the court questioned “how will [it] ascertain, a priori, that a given amount of tax will crush the bank?”
  • In Burch v. Louisiana, the court held that it “[did] not pretend the ability to discern a priori a bright line below which the number of jurors participating in the trial or in the verdict would not permit the jury to function in the manner required by [their] prior cases.”

[Last updated in June of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]