The Blog of Legal Times has a good summary of the discussion of stare decisis in Tuesday’s U. S. Supreme Court opinions in John R. Sand & Gravel Co. v. United States, case no. 06-1164 (Jan. 8, 2008), including what it sees as an unusual alignment of the justices.
The catalyst for the discussion was whether a series of SCOTUS precedents dating back to the 1880s was effectively overruled by a 1990 SCOTUS decision. The competing opinions in John R. Sand & Gravel disagree on the impact of the 1990 decision, with the majority concluding that it did not overrule the earlier cases.
I remember my legal writing professor emphasizing the importance of citing recent precedent. But sometimes, the only case you have directly on point is quite old. I’m pretty sure I have cited cases from the 1800s. John R. Sand & Gravel proves that old — very old — cases can serve as effective precedent.