Pirates! Blackbeard! Queen Anne’s Revenge! Sovereign immunity! Enumerated powers! And, sexiest of all, copyright law! Stare decisis and legislative history, and separation of powers, too. The U.S. Supreme Court, just two weeks ago, dealt with them all. Did I mention PIRATES?! Avast, check it out, matey.
How important is stare decisis?
Two months ago the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned a 40 year old precedent concerning the sovereign immunity of individual states. The majority opinion, written by Clarence Thomas, held that correcting the court’s constitutional mistakes outweighed the doctrine of stare decisis and the importance of abiding by precedent. The respect given to stare decisis and the willingness of the Court to overturn prior decisions will play a major role in upcoming Supreme Court decisions.