Columbia Southern University
What does it mean when it says “ Stare decisis is not an inexorable command; rather it is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision?”
The first question that needs to be answered is what is Stare decisis? It is a principle that requires the court be held to their previous decisions and by higher courts that have jurisdiction over them pertaining to similar cases on issues of law and fact (Schmalleger & Hall, 2014, p.17). The meaning of inexorable is impossible to stop, alter, or to resist. In a proceeding if a courts that states something is stare decisis is not an inexorable command they are saying that any past sentencing or verdicts has be taken into account when looking at a similar situation. Even though lower courts are held to the decisions of higher courts that does mean that they cannot disregard their own decision as long the higher courts have not had a ruling on the subject (Schmalleger & Hall, 2014, p.17). They have to look at the details in which the verdict was made and what the circumstances were at the time.
The Supreme Court has been known to defer from different verdicts even if they have some doubt about their decision. Some have come to think that because the doctrine is laid out for the courts helps to decipher constitutional rights for the public. The doctrine on both sides. Stare decisis says that the courts has to be held by its own precedent and at the same time it can apply the precedent from a higher court. Those that are critics against stare decisis does not allow the legal system to quickly adapt to different situations, and can make wrong decisions that influence the law negatively.
What would it mean for the American system of criminal justice if stare decisis actually was an “inexorable command” or a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision”?
If stare decisis was an inexorable command or mechanical formula of adherence I do believe that the legal system would be a little different that it is today. There would be a constant tug and pull on what is right and wrong when it comes to certain policies. Being able to argue policy and have something that is a sure thing would be difficult. Every case in turn needs to have a verdict that is unique for that case and not be the same as in other cases. The road at which laws go through would be flawed. The U.S. Constitution is the law that every other law falls under.
The policies that were built off of stare decisis will be none existent and it will be chaotic when trying dispute certain policies. If there are errors in a certain case and there was ruling by the court it could be overturned because there would be nothing saying that is could not happen. If a verdict that was decided by stare decisis could be overturned it would make it extremely hard to have any kind of structure to the system. There have been times when a state has chosen not to apply the doctrine because the previous decision is said to be unworkable (Oyen, 2017). There might a change in society that prompts the courts not to use precedent, but at the same time they would choose wisely when doing that. Be able to have policies that act as a safeguard for the court system is very much needed to make sure that no one who is innocent is charged with a crime that they did not commit (even though it happens every day).
Schmalleger, F., & Hall, D. E. (2014). Criminal Law Today (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Schmalleger, F., & Hall, D. E., Dolatowski, J.J. (2010). Criminal Law Today (4th ed.). Retrieved from https://media.pearsoncmg.com/pls/products/coco/criminal_law/125689897x/assignments/pdfs/criminal_law_handout_lesson_01.pdf
Oyen, T. (2017). Stare decisis. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/stare_decisis
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