Essay on Stare Decisis

Stare decisis treats, in any given area of law, each judicial decision as a potential precedent for the next round of litigation or, rather, treats the body of rules and reasoning announced in previous cases as binding upon the judge deciding the current case (Knight and Epstein, 1996, p.1088). Like cases shall be decided alike. Where a new case is not exactly like the old ones, legal reasoning—that is, reason by analogy—will yield results most consonant with the previous cases. In this way, judges may not simply decide each case as they choose but must decide it according to the established case law.

Help With Essay On Stare Decisis
Help With Essay On Stare Decisis

Yet it is acknowledged that the rules of law do change over time. This change is attributed not to judicial policy discretion but to the application, in a succession of cases, of stable common law principles to changing circumstances (Knight and Epstein, 1996, p.1088). The law changes.

Numerous benefits of stare decisis can be named (Segal and Spaeth, 1996, p. 975). For example, (1) the practice secures equality before the law at least in the sense that like cases are treated alike; (2) it limits the scope for bias, arbitrariness, and the like; (3) it facilitates planning and reliance on the part of private parties by providing a reasonably predictable and stable legal framework within which to make decisions; (4) it helps secure legal compliance on the part of losing parties, for they are more likely to see that decisions are not made against them personally, but apply to a class falling under a rule; (5) it serves efficiency by saving resources that would go into examining each case afresh, and by discouraging potential litigants from bringing lawsuits or appealing; (6) it brings home to the judges their responsibilities by forcing them when deciding entirely new issues to consider the various possibilities more carefully. Given these arguments it is hardly surprising that the American legal system has adopted the principle of stare decisis, and that it therefore has large and complex bodies of binding common law precedents.

References

Knight, Jack and Epstein, Lee (1996) “The Norm of Stare Decisis.” American Journal of Political Science, 40: 1088.

Segal, Jeffrey and Spaeth, Harold (1996) “The Influence of Stare Decisis.” American Journal of Political Science, 40: 975.

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