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Precedent Excuse

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A character wants a privilege, an item, or something, everyone else says "No". Then the character claims to have something else as a pre-existing justification. This goes a few ways:

  1. It backfires by causing everyone to reconsider what was used as the justification, causing the possibility of the privilege in question being revoked.
  2. Conversely (and rarely) people see it as a good reason and give out the privilege.
  3. In the case of letting characters in a group/place. they might do the above, or think of reasons to include the the guy that was used as justification while excluding the guys wanting to get in.

A Sub-Trope to Why We Cant Have Nice Things. Compare Rule Zero and Obvious Rule Patch (Tropes used to prevent Loophole Abuse). Compare and contrast Grandfather Clause (where something's allowed because it has already been allowed under an obsolete precedent). Contrast Confession Deferred.


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    Comic Strips 
  • FoxTrot:
    • Andy grounds Peter for a week after finding out that he saw the R-rated Kill Bill Volume 2. Peter protests that she didn't get upset when he saw the first Kill Bill movie. Andy responds that she hadn't known that he saw the first movie, and that he is now grounded for two weeks.
    • Andy is going through the bills, horrified by the heating bill, the telephone bill, the cable bill... Then Paige walks in in a bikini, telling her that she's got her friends on a conference call if they can go to some TV-sponsored event. The next panel has Peter, Paige and Jason in heavy winter clothes watching the rabbit ear antenna'd TV, with Jason holding up a telegraph telling Paige she has a message as Peter angrily demands to know what Paige told their mom.

    Fan Works 
  • The Blacks, the Greens and the Reds (a A Song of Ice and Fire fic): Both Rhaenyra and Aegon try to use the ruling of Great Council of 101AC to justify their ascension — Rhaenyra by saying that it allows the King to hand-pick his heir and bypass the normal line of succession; Aegon says it bars women from inheriting the Iron Throne at all.
  • Personality Conflicts (a Power Rangers fic): Used positively in the "Zordon's Trial" arc — Ferin, one of Trey's advisors, is rather stuck on doing things in the way they've always been, but when he objects to Trey's choice of his younger triplet sister Trialia as his successor (since she would become both the planet's ruler and Gold Ranger), one of the other advisors points out that there is a precedent — Queen Solaria, who held both the crown and the powers a very long time ago. Ferin concedes the point and, by the time the meeting is done, is one of the four advisors are supporting Trey's choice whole-heartedly. The fifth (who isn't fond of change, including women's increasing rights on the planet) reluctantly accepts as well.
  • A Thing of Vikings (a How to Train Your Dragon fic):
    • In chapter 93, this is invoked when the Haddock family allows Merida to adopt a dragon after she marries Cami with the intention of setting a precedent that the right for dragon adoptions can be given as a gift.
    • In chapter 120, because Hooligan children were initially allowed to adopt dragons from as young as twelve back when they first tamed dragons and before they had proper procedures in place, the annexed Meathead and Bog Burglar tribes say their kids deserve equal treatment. Hiccup admits they don't have a leg to stand on with trying to stop it and allows it, but he, Astrid and Fishlegs agrees to place fifteen as the cut-off for all future dragon adoptions.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Stargate Atlantis: In the episode "Aurora" Sheppard is thrown in jail and tries to get the guard to let him out and take him to the ship's captain. The guard says he is under orders to make sure Sheppard speaks to no one. Sheppard retorts that the guard is already talking to him, so the order is already broken; the guard then walks out wordlessly.

  • Not Always Right: This story has a drunk bar patron try to excuse their friend's drunkenness by arguing they're more drunk than them, thus getting them both thrown out.
    Patron's friend: "Why are you kicking her out? I'm drunker than she is!"
    [Anecdote Giver]: "Then you can leave, too!"
  • On The Other Wiki, this was historically called the "Pokémon test": when arguing about why an article should not be deleted, its supporters would say, "if we have articles about every obscure Pokémon, why can't we also have an article about this?" Since the Pokémon articles have since been merged into lists, these days it is simply called "Other stuff exists."

    Western Animation 
  • Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps: In the episode "Angelina's Sleepover", Angelina and her friends promise Angelina's mother that they're about to go to sleep, but then stay up to complete the carnival hats that they started. They do this on the excuse that they even though the mother had told them to go to sleep, she also always says that they should finish what they start, and they hadn't finished making their hats yet.
  • DuckTales (2017): In "The Great Dime Chase!", when the board starts talking about firing employees from the Bin, Scrooge complains that they might simply close the bin itself. The board point out that Scrooge has an office in the city, so he doesn't actually need the bin.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Homer The Great", Homer as a kid was barred access to a club because of their membership rule: "No Homers". Kid!Homer points out that they let a kid named Homer Glumplich in, only for the club to respond that their rule is "No Homers"; they can have one. It repeats himself at the end of the episode with the Ancient Mystic Society of No Homers.
    • This is also Parodied in the episode "Simpson Tide". When Homer joins the Navy, Bart asks him to bring him back some torpedoes. When Homer says no, Bart argues that Flanders got his kids torpedoes and Homer vows to bring him a "weapon of unimaginable destructive power". Luckily, Marge vetos it.
    • Another example is from the episode "The Great Wife Hope". In it, Marge told Bart to stop fighting with Nelson, Bart pleads that he is only copying the moves he saw at a Martial Arts match. Marge then goes on a crusade to ban those matches too.

    Real Life 
  • Many "patent trolls" (people and organizations who hoard huge amounts of patents in the hope of suing people with similar ideas) have had their patents revoked by judges, who decided that they shouldn't have been awarded the patent in the first place (generally because they were so broad they could describe almost anything). As a result, a lot of them try to force their victims to settle out of court (and drop their lawsuits if they go to trial).
  • Pluto. When Sedna and the other outer icy planets were discovered people said they ought to be planets because they were basically the same as Pluto. This caused the IAU, who didn't want too many planets in the solar system, to say that Pluto oughtn't to be a planet then.
  • Pompey the Great's revolutionary career (like raising a private army without any authorization and using it to insert himself into Roman politics, being given supreme commands lasting years at a time, completely bypassing the cursus honorum, becoming consul below the minimum age requirement while not even a senator etc) set dangerous precedents cited by the likes of Caesar and Octavian as a justification for their own actions.