Washington Law Review


The number of recent decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States overruling earlier decisions of that Court has profoundly disturbed a large section of the bar of the United States and a considerable number of its thoughtful citizens It has even induced protest and caused foreboding among the members of that Court itself. This feeling does not arise from the fact that the bar and public are entirely unaccustomed to reversals of its former decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States Such reversals have occurred in the past. But they have been by no means so frequent as within the last few years. The effect of these recent reversals has been not only to alter specific long-established principles or interpretations of constitutions and statutes, but to create a feeling of general uncertainty as to the reliance which may be placed upon all decisional law. This feeling is due to the apparent attitude of the majority of the present Court toward established principles. Although it has rendered lip service to the doctrine of stare decisis, its opinions have given the impression to many that it takes rather positive delight in overthrowing principles long established and, by many, well cherished. Quite naturally, then, the question has arisen what has happened or is happening to the doctrine of stare decisis? Is it being in effect discarded, or simply violated? Does it still rest upon sound reason, and should any effort be made to re-establish its authority? Can the rule as it now exists in this country be modified in any way to the advantage of our law and our society?

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