Stare Decisis

Stare Decisis

Stare decisis is a legal doctrine that means "let the decision stand". It is a key feature of the common law system, in which legal decisions and precedents are based on the judgments of judges in previous cases, rather than on written laws or codes.

Under the doctrine of stare decisis, judges are generally required to follow the decisions of higher courts in previous cases, unless there is a compelling reason to depart from that precedent. This helps to ensure consistency and predictability in legal rulings, and ensures that similar cases are treated similarly.

Stare decisis operates at different levels within the legal system. At the highest level are decisions made by the highest court in a jurisdiction, such as the Supreme Court of the United States or the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. These decisions are binding on lower courts within that jurisdiction and must be followed unless there is a compelling reason to depart from them.

Lower courts, in turn, create their own precedents that must be followed by lower courts in the same jurisdiction. These precedents may be overruled or distinguished by higher courts in later cases, but they generally provide guidance and direction for judges in deciding similar cases.

One of the advantages of the doctrine of stare decisis is that it promotes stability and predictability in the legal system. It ensures that similar cases are treated similarly, which can help to prevent arbitrary or inconsistent decisions by judges. However, the doctrine is not absolute, and there are circumstances in which a judge may depart from a precedent, such as when the precedent is outdated or was decided wrongly. In such cases, the judge must provide a reasoned explanation for departing from the precedent.
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