first impression

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First impression is a new legal issue or interpretation that is brought before a court. In a case of first impression, the exact issue before the court has not been addressed by that court, or within that court's jurisdiction, thus there is no binding authority on that matter. In Fiore v. White, 562 Pa. 634, it was held that “a case of first impression is one that presents an ‘entirely novel question of law’, which ‘cannot be governed by any existing precedent’”.

Cases of first impression often occur in connection with recently passed legislation, or when that issue has been addressed by other jurisdictions, but not in the jurisdiction of the presented court.

Courts may seek guidance from other jurisdictions, or by making analogies to related or similar issues. 

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