Can you discuss Stare Decisis, also known as the Law of Precedent, by connecting it to the Bill of Rights? (Please bring in several Amendments.)

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The connection between stare decisis and the Bill of Rights is rather tenuous.  Stare decisis does not come from the Bill of Rights.  It can be used by the Supreme Court in helping it to decide cases that have to do with the Bill of Rights, but it is not found in those amendments.

Stare decisis, in this context, is the idea that the Supreme Court should follow its own precedents.  In other words, if the Supreme Court has made a ruling, it should stick to that ruling.  It should not simply change its mind on a frequent basis.  This is not a legal rule.   It is not found in the Bill of Rights.  Instead, it is an idea that the Court can adhere to voluntarily.  It is also, therefore, an idea that can be discarded when the Court feels the need. 

The Supreme Court has violated the idea of stare decisis many times.  For example, the Court overturned its decision in Plessy v. Ferguson when it made its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.  However, this is not a matter of the Bill of Rights.  One example of stare decisis being ignored relative to the Bill of Rights is the Citizens United case from 2010.  In that ruling, the Court reversed one previous decision and part of another with respect to political donations and the First Amendment.  Another example was the case of Mapp v. Ohio.  In that case, the Court ruled that the 4th Amendment required the Exclusionary Rule when it had previously ruled that that Amendment did not require it.

Of course, there are many times when the Court sticks with its previous decisions, at least in part.  For example, Roe v. Wade continues to be the law of the land even though many cases have been brought in attempts to overturn it.  Thus, we can see that stare decisis can apply to the Bill of Rights, but that it does not necessarily do so.