Legal Writing,  Stare Decisis,  U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUS on Stare Decisis

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.