Monday, January 15, 2007

Stare Decisis

From my weekly (AM) radio segment titled "Legal Minute".

During Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearings, when pressed for statements as to how he would rule on certain issues he stated that he would follow the doctrine of Stare Decisis. Stare Decisis is Latin for “to stand by that which is decided”. Stare Decisis is used to refer to a complex legal doctrine that requires the prior decisions of courts to be regarded as precedent. The motivation for the doctrine is that we need to maintain certainly, predictability and stability in the law. Although, there are exceptions to the doctrine. For instance, courts may deviate from precedent by overruling cases that may be contrary to public policy or for other reasons. Some argue that the doctrine interferes with judges’ rights to interpret the law and the legislature’s right to make the law. It is, however, a fundamental policy of jurisprudence that relevant precedent must be followed even if a case, if decided anew, might be decided differently. A party seeking to overturn precedent has a challenging task of proving that the existing precedent is no longer good law.