MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS: Judicial Review: Stare Decisis

2020 (October Term)

United States v. Cardenas, 80 M.J. 420 (when asked to overrule one of its precedents, an appellate court must analyze the matter under the doctrine of stare decisis). 

(stare decisis is the doctrine of precedent, under which a court must follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again; adherence to precedent is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process). 

(applying stare decisis is not an inexorable command, and an appellate court is not bound by precedent when there is a significant change in circumstances after the adoption of a legal rule, or an error in legal analysis; in evaluating the application of stare decisis, an appellate court considers (1) whether the prior decision is unworkable or poorly reasoned, (2) any intervening events, (3) the reasonable expectations of servicemembers, and (4) the risk of undermining public confidence in the law; as to the first factor, the appellate court considers not whether the interpretation at issue is plausible, but whether the decisions are so unworkable or poorly reasoned that they should be overruled). 

2018 (October Term)

United States v. Tovarchavez, 78 M.J. 458 (horizontal stare decisis requires an appellate court to adhere to its own prior decisions, unless it finds compelling reasons to overrule itself). 

(overruling by implication is disfavored; lower courts should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to the superior court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions). 

(forfeited errors are subject to plain error review, while preserved errors are not; under Article 59, UCMJ, all errors of law - preserved or not - must have prejudiced an appellant’s rights, and the test employed to determine prejudice depends on the nature of the right). 

2017 (October Term)

United States v. Dinger, 77 M.J. 447 (when an appellate court is asked to overrule one of its precedents, it analyzes the matter under the doctrine of stare decisis). 

(stare decisis is a principle of decision-making, under which a court follows earlier judicial decisions when the same issue arises in other cases; although the doctrine of stare decisis is of fundamental importance to the rule of law, a court’s precedents are not sacrosanct, and prior decisions may be overruled where the necessity and propriety of doing so has been established).

(in evaluating the application of stare decisis, an appellate court considers whether the prior decision is unworkable or poorly reasoned, any intervening events, the reasonable expectations of servicemembers, and the risk of undermining public confidence in the law). 

United States v. Andrews, 77 M.J. 393 (stare decisis is defined as the doctrine of precedent, under which a court must follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation; the doctrine encompasses at least two distinct concepts: (1) an appellate court must adhere to its own prior decisions, unless it finds compelling reasons to overrule itself; and (2) courts must strictly follow the decisions handed down by higher courts; adherence to precedent is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process; an appellate court will not overturn precedent that has been treated as authoritative for a long time unless the most cogent reasons and inescapable logic require it; stare decisis is most compelling where courts undertake statutory construction; the party requesting that a court overturn precedent bears a substantial burden of persuasion).

(applying stare decisis is, however, not an inexorable command; an appellate court is not bound by precedent where there has been a significant change in circumstances after the adoption of a legal rule, or an error in legal analysis, and it is willing to depart from precedent when it is necessary to vindicate plain, obvious principles of law and remedy continued injustice). 

(an appellate court considers the following factors in evaluating the application of stare decisis: whether the prior decision is unworkable or poorly reasoned; any intervening events; the reasonable expectations of servicemembers; and the risk of undermining public confidence in the law; even if these factors weigh in favor of overturning long-settled precedent, an appellate court still requires special justification, not just an argument that the precedent was wrongly decided).

(under the doctrine of stare decisis, the question is not whether the interpretation at issue is plausible; it is whether the decision is so unworkable or poorly reasoned that it should be overruled).

(when a court is clearly convinced that precedent is no longer sound because of changing conditions and that more good than harm will come by departing from precedent, that court is not inexorably bound by its own precedents). 

United States v. Blanks, 77 M.J. 239 (when an appellate court considers a request to overrule a prior decision of the court, it analyzes the matter under the doctrine of stare decisis). 

(the doctrine of stare decisis provides that adherence to precedent is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process).

(stare decisis is most compelling where courts undertake statutory construction). 

(the doctrine of stare decisis is not an inexorable command; an appellate court considers the following factors in evaluating the application of stare decisis: whether the prior decision is unworkable or poorly reasoned; any intervening events; the reasonable expectations of servicemembers; and the risk of undermining public confidence in the law; a party must present a special justification for us to overrule prior precedent). 

United States v. Mangahas, 77 M.J. 220 (courts do not lightly overrule precedent, but stare decisis is a principle of decision making, not a rule, and need not be applied when the precedent at issue is badly reasoned). 

2014 (September Term)

United States v. Quick, 74 M.J. 332 (the doctrine of stare decisis is most compelling where courts undertake statutory construction).   

(when considering whether to overrule a precedent, an appellate court is guided by the doctrine of stare decisis; under this fundamental principle, adherence to precedent is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process; stare decisis is a principle of decision making, not a rule, and need not be applied when the precedent at issue is unworkable or badly reasoned; as a general matter, however, adhering to precedent is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than it be settled right). 

(under the doctrine of stare decisis, a decision should not be overruled without examining intervening events, reasonable expectations of servicemembers, and the risk of undermining public confidence in the law).

(for purposes of an appellate court’s analysis under the doctrine of stare decisis, the court does not limit its review to whether the prior precedent was wrongly decided, but rather it examines whether the prior decision is unworkable or poorly reasoned, any intervening events, the reasonable expectations of servicemembers, and the risk of undermining public confidence in the law).  

(with respect to the prior precedent that authorized the CCAs the legal authority to order sentence-only rehearings under Article 66(d), UCMJ, the process may be cumbersome, but is not unworkable; also, the prior precedent is not poorly reasoned, and there have been no intervening events; in fact, the power of the CCAs to order sentence-only rehearings has been recognized by both the executive and legislative branches of government; in addition, servicemembers have come to rely on the authority of CCAs to order sentence-only rehearings where it has been accepted procedure in the military justice system for over sixty years; finally, because the prior procedural precedent has provided a predictable and consistent appellate remedy for both litigants and lower courts to follow for years, changing precedent would run the risk of undermining public confidence; as such, the government has failed to establish sufficient justification to depart from the doctrine of stare decisis). 

2010 (September Term)

United States v. Fosler, 70 M.J. 225 (the doctrine of stare decisis does not apply when a statute, executive order, or other basis for a decision changes). 

(stare decisis cannot possibly be controlling when the decision in question has been proved manifestly erroneous and its underpinnings eroded by subsequent decisions of the Supreme Court).

2008 (Transition)


United States v. Falcon, 65 M.J. 386 (the doctrine of stare decisis plays an important role in an appellate courtís decision-making; applying stare decisis is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process; however, 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).

 

(precedent can be overruled if changes in society or in the law dictate that the values served by stare decisis yield in favor of a greater objective).

 

(where a judicial decision is based on public policy and that policy has changed, the doctrine of stare decisis does not prohibit an appellate court from revisiting that decision).

 

2003

United States v. Rorie, 58 MJ 399 (CAAF is not unmindful of the importance that the doctrine of stare decisis plays in its decision-making; the doctrine of stare decisis is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process).

(a decision to alter a policy of abatement ab initio does not fall into any of the categories identified as important areas within which to preserve precedent under stare decisis; the issue is not one of constitutional or statutory interpretation, nor has it been presented with any reliance interests of appellant).

(stare decisis is a principle of decision-making, not a rule, and need not be applied when the precedent at issue is unworkable or badly reasoned; admittedly, the current policy of abatement cannot be considered unworkable; however, CAAF believes that the weight of reason supports a change in the rule).

(CAAF may alter its policy in regard to abatement ab initio without being constrained by stare decisis; CAAF is less constrained by the doctrine of stare decisis in this instance because it is determining a matter of court policy rather than contemplating a change in the law or a change impacting upon an articulable right of an appellant).

United States v. Inong, 58 MJ 460 (this Court is respectful of the important doctrine of stare decisis; under this fundamental principle, adherence to precedent is the preferred course because it promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process; stare decisis is a principle of decision making, not a rule, and need not be applied when the precedent at issue is unworkable or badly reasoned).


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