Court Battles

Thomas urges Supreme Court to reverse ‘demonstrably erroneous decisions’

Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday said that the Supreme Court should take more action to overturn prior “demonstrably erroneous decisions.”

In a concurring opinion issued in a double jeopardy case, Thomas wrote that he believes the court was correct in not overturning a doctrine that allows an individual to be charged with the same crime by federal and state prosecutors.

{mosads}However, he wrote that the Supreme Court should revisit its use of the “stare decisis” doctrine, under which a past precedent is not to be overturned unless there’s a compelling reason to do so.

Thomas wrote that the use of the judicial standard “elevates demonstrably erroneous decisions—meaning decisions outside the realm of permissible interpretation—over the text of the Constitution and other duly enacted federal law.”

He argued that the court was overstepping its bounds by enforcing the past rulings to help establish new law.

“By applying demonstrably erroneous precedent instead of the relevant law’s text—as the court is particularly prone to do when expanding federal power or crafting new individual rights—the court exercises ‘force’ and ‘will,’ two attributes the people did not give it,” the justice wrote.

Thomas said that the court should reexamine the doctrine to ensure that the justices are only utilizing “mere judgement” by following “the correct, original meaning of the laws we are charged with applying.”

“When faced with a demonstrably erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: We should not follow it,” Thomas wrote.

And he said that federal judges in lower courts should also not feel bound to comply with an incorrect precedent.

The issue of judicial precedent was raised earlier this year when the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a 1979 ruling on states’ immunity from lawsuits.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the reversal of the past decision “can only cause one to wonder which cases the court will overrule next.” That statement sparked concerns over whether the court’s conservative majority would later overturn Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Tags Clarence Thomas Clarence Thomas Stephen Breyer Supreme Court Supreme Court
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