Courts that don’t follow precedent will lose public esteem

At a recent speaking engagement, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas commented that people’s refusal to live with the outcomes of decisions we disagree with would erode respect in the institution that is the Supreme Court. Practically in the same breath, he goes on to comment that adherence to stare decisis is the mantra of non-thinkers. I think that his comments deserve some examination.

The definition of stare decisis is a doctrine that rules or principles of law on which a court rested a previous decision are authoritative in all future cases in which the facts are substantially the same.

Roughly paraphrased, this means we agree to live with the outcomes of prior decisions, even if we don’t agree with them!

As far as whether I agree that respect for the Supreme Court is eroding? Yes, I would say that refusal to live with the outcomes of decisions not agreed with is decaying my esteem for one of our finest institutions. Your refusal, Clarence, your refusal.

Berb W. Kidder

Everett

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