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How Can Supreme Court Decisions Be Overturned

How can US Supreme Court decisions be overturned?

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There are three major ways in which a Supreme Court decision can be overturned.

If the decision is based on a law that Congress has passed, Congress can simply change the law.  The Court sometimes has to rule on how they think laws made by Congress apply to certain cases.  If Congress thinks the Court has gotten it wrong, they can change the law to make things clearer.

If the decision is based on the Constitution, the Constitution can be amended.  For example, the Supreme Court has said that the Constitution bans school-sponsored prayer.  If enough people wanted to, they could pass an amendment allowing such prayers.

Finally (and this is the most common way of overturning Court decisions) a later Supreme Court can decide that a certain decision was wrong.  For example, the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education effectively overruled the decision in made 58 years before in Plessy v. Ferguson.

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samanthamori | Student

The United States government is divided into three branches of government in order to create a separation of power. In response to the fear of a king, the founder wanted to create a system of checks and balances so that each branch had a distinct role. However, the branches work together to create a government that functions for the people.

The role of the Supreme Court is not to create laws but to rule on the constitutionality of laws that states or the federal government create. When the Court hands down a decision, it creates "precedent" for all other courts, including the Supreme Court to follow.

The most common way that the Court's decisions are overruled is through new case law. The Court recognizes that times change and cases must be understood in the backdrop of the time in which they are heard. If the Court decides that the precedent is no longer correct, the Court will overrule a previous decision.

The other way in which the Court's decisions can be overruled is through changes in the law itself. If Congress or a state makes a change to the law in question, the case precedent becomes moot and is overruled.

Finally, a constitutional amendment, which requires consent of the states, is required to overrule decisions related to the constitution.

The Supreme Court aims to make reasoned decisions that will not be later overturned, but it is not unheard of. You can look to history to see a number of cases in which societal changes led to overturning Supreme Court precedent.

ra2ynman | Student

The Supreme Court of the United States was originally created with a limited jurisdiction and ability to affect their coordinate branches of government (the legislature and the executive). Shortly after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution the famous case of Marbury v. Madison extended the Supreme Court into a realm known as "judicial review". Judicial review, simply, was designed, and advanced, by the court as a mechanism to evaluate whether or not legislation or executive action was compliant with the the Constitution. Essentially, to determine whether a statute was "Constitutional" or "Un-Constitutional".

Supreme Court decisions are subject to revision or embraced (being "overturned) through a variety of mechanisms. Most of these methods are simple in description yet difficult in practice.

One, the court itself can simply render a different verdict in a similarly situated case that nullifies a previous ruling. When utilized, which is rare, often many decades pass between the original decision and the subsequent repudiation of that decision. The court adheres to a doctrine of stare decisis (adherence to judicial precedent) and is reluctant and slow in forsaking precedent absent formidable evidence of a decision poorly reasoned or factually deficient.

Two, Congress may simply amend, or pass new legislation, that no longer offends the Constitution in the view of the Supreme Court. Similarly, Executive Orders commissioned by the President, can be restructured to satisfy the court as to its constitutionality.

And, finally, the Constitution itself provides a process of Amendment which can remove the objections of the Supreme Court. Amending the Constitution can render a Supreme Court decision moot by rendering their decision inapplicable to the new text of the Constitution.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court is never "overturned": The Supreme Court issues decisions about the Constitutionality of certain legislative and executive actions. Afterwards, the aforementioned mechanisms can be employed in a manner that the Supreme Court finds compliant with the Constitution. At no time can either Congress or the President pronounce the Supreme Court's decisions invalid or "overturned". The phrase "overturned" simply refers to a new set of circumstances the court finds compatible with Constitutional demands and restrictions.

jiyoungkwon | Student

The Supreme Court of the United States ("Supreme Court") is the highest court in the United States. In Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Supreme Court held that it had the right to judicial review, or the power to interpret laws and declare them to be unconstitutional. Although the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of Congressional laws and questions involving the Constitution, there are several ways its decisions can be overturned.

First, the Supreme Court can choose to overturn its past decision. For example, in its 2005 decision Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court held that individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time they committed the crime could not be sentenced to death. This overturned the Court's previous decision in Stanford v. Kentucky (1989), which had allowed the death penalty to be imposed on individuals who were older than 16 at the time the crime was committed.

Second, the Supreme Court's decisions can be overturned by amending the Constitution. This can happen if the Court ruled on a matter involving constitutional interpretation. For example, the Court's ruling in Minor v. Happersett (1875), which held that voting was not an inherent right of citizenship, was overturned by the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

Finally, Congress can choose to pass legislation that can affect the Supreme Court ruling. This happened in General Electric Co v. Gilbert (1976). In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that employers had the right to exclude pregnancy-related benefits from its disability plan. In response, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which prohibited employers with more than 15 employees from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy.

bor | Student

As an additional note, the SC has overturned themselves about 200 times since it's 1789 inception, mostly NON Landmark cases though.

A SC decision never becomes deseutude in nature, as a statutory law may become outmoded/outdated. Congress can not overturn a SC decision.

This case I cite here is unusual to me, although it states it was heard under a MANDATORY review, I am not a scholar enough to know why it could have been declined.

Anyway, it was dismissed for "want of a substantial federal question", meaning it a Summary decision on the merits. I have no idea how many case through the years were decided like this one though.

Such a  Summary decision can be effectively overruled by an inferior court through "Doctrinal developments" and not by the SC itself, Yes it is confusing to me too?

The case involves same sex marriages, and this case, mostly I suppose, is why states that permit SSM do so under thier own Constitution's.