Super-Strong Stare Decisis

A recurring theme in Supreme Court decisions that interpret federal statutes is that stare decisis should be especially strong. The rationale for this is that Congress can always modify statutes to supersede an interpretation that is problematic. Doing that for a constitutional precedent, by contrast, is more difficult. Thus, statutory stare decisis should be stronger.

Stronger maybe, buy why strong? Run-of-the-mill common law courts do not have such a rule in theory. When state courts decide contract, tort, property, etc. cases, state legislatures are free to modify those decisional rules. No state court, though, says this means there is a “super-strong” rule for stare decisis in those cases. Perhaps in practice these precedents are treated that way–that would an interesting research subject–but I’m skeptical. Why then are federal statutory interpretations treated differently?



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2 Responses

  1. Scott Dodson says:

    Because (1) the constitutional separation-of-powers principle is stronger for the federal government than for state governments and (2) unlike state courts, federal courts abandoned run-of-the-mill common-law lawmaking after Erie?

  2. The very best court docket has lengthy given its cases interpreting statutes special protection from overruling. Rationales exist for this exercise. One line of concept interprets congressional silence following the Supreme Court docket’s interpretation of a statute as approval of that interpretation. In step with this manner of questioning, a refusal to overrule statutory precedent is a refusal to veer from an interpretation that Congress has efficaciously authorized. Every other line of thought emphasizes that statutory interpretation inevitably entails policymaking and that policymaking is a component of legislative, in preference to judicial, strength.