Stare Decisis and the Selection Effect

  • Frederick Schauer
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 33)


This chapter contends that there are significant systemic obstacles to determining whether the Supreme Court actually adheres to stare decisis. Political-science research suggests that precedent exerts relatively little constraint on the Court’s decisionmaking. The author contends that this research is unreliable, however, because of the selection effect: A strong norm of stare decisis, if it existed, would allow only the closest cases—those where precedent is least constraining—to reach the Court in the first place. Whether the selection effect actually operates in this way, however, depends on whether litigants, lawyers, and lower-court judges believe the Court applies stare decisis. And whether the Court does so is precisely what the empirical studies cannot reveal. As things stand, then, there is no reliable way to know whether the Court really follows precedent. The Court could fill this information gap by conspicuously reaffirming decisions known to be opposed by a majority of Justices, but it rarely has done so. This failure, more than any empirical research, suggests that the Court does not in fact accord much weight to precedent.


Selection Effect Previous Decision Analogical Reasoning Supreme Court Decision Strong Norm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA

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