stare decisis

stare decisis (stahr-ee di-sI-sis orstair-ee), n. [Latin “to stand by things decided”] The doctrine of precedent, under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation. See PRECEDENT; NON QUIETA MOVERE. Cf. RES JUDICATA; LAW OF THE CASE ; (in civil law) jurisprudence constante under JURISPRUDENCE. [Cases: Courts 89. C.J.S. Courts §§ 139–140, 144–146, 161–164, 166–167.]

“The rule of adherence to judicial precedents finds its expression in the doctrine of stare decisis. This doctrine is simply that, when a point or principle of law has been once officially decided or settled by the ruling of a competent court in a case in which it is directly and necessarily involved, it will no longer be considered as open to examination or to a new ruling by the same tribunal, or by those which are bound to follow its adjudications, unless it be for urgent reasons and in exceptional cases.” William M. Lile et al., Brief Making and the Use of Law Books 321 (3d ed. 1914).

“The general orthodox interpretation of stare decisis… is stare rationibus decidendis (‘keep to the rationes decidendi of past cases’), but a narrower and more literal interpretation is sometimes employed. To appreciate this narrower interpretation it is necessary to refer … to Lord Halsbury’s assertion that a case is only authority for what it actually decides. We saw that situations can arise in which all that is binding is the decision. According to Lord Reid, such a situation arises when the ratio decidendi of a previous case is obscure, out of accord with authority or established principle, or too broadly expressed.” Rupert Cross & J.W. Harris, Precedent in English Law 100–01 (4th ed. 1991).


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