Stare Decisis

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In the Payne v. Tennessee (1991), the US Supreme Court ruled thatthe statement of a victim in a capital punishment case can beadmitted in the courtroom as a testimony during sentencing stagewithout violating the Eighth Amendment. This was contrary to previousrulings (Schmalleger, et al., 2010). In the judgment, the SupremeCourt stated that “stare decisis is not an inexorable commandrather it is a principle of policy and not a mechanical formula ofadherence to the latest decision.&quot Stare decisis is a legalprinciple in which courts adhere to rulings from the previousproceedings, where the facts are similar. It is aimed at ensuringthat the bench verdicts are consistent and conserve expectations. Thedecision meant that the judgments by previous courts are not absoluteand do not eliminate the authority of the judges in making a fairdetermination based on the law. Therefore, a declaration can becontrary to decrees in the past. Judges should take intoconsiderations arguments in the current cases as well as changes inthe law to make fair rulings (Schmalleger, et al., 2010).

If ‘Stare decisis’ is “inexorable command” or “mechanicalformula of adherence to the latest decision”, it will have hugeimpacts on the justice system. The judges with be required to adhereto previous rulings. The decisions of the courts would be absolutewhen considered in subsequent proceedings. This means that changesor developments in the law and the legal arguments presented in thecurrent case will not be put into considerations. Consequently, itwill be unfair since the rulings will not be in agreement with thenew facts (Schmalleger, et al., 2010).


Schmalleger, F. et al. (2010). Criminal law today. UpperSaddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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