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The Influence of Stare Decisis on the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices

Jeffrey A. Segal and Harold J. Spaeth
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 40, No. 4 (Nov., 1996), pp. 971-1003
DOI: 10.2307/2111738
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111738
Page Count: 33
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The Influence of Stare Decisis on the Votes of United States Supreme Court Justices
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Abstract

We test arguments from the legal model claiming that United States Supreme Court justices will follow previously established legal rules even when they disagree with them; i.e., that they are influenced by stare decisis. Because of the institutional features facing Supreme Court justices, we argue that justices who dissent from or otherwise disagree with Supreme Court precedents established in landmark cases are free not to support those decisions in subsequent cases. A systematic content analysis of the votes and opinions of dissenting Supreme Court justices in a random sample of landmark decisions and their progeny. Overwhelmingly, Supreme Court justices are not influenced by landmark precedents with which they disagree. We replicate the research for nonlandmark decisions and find similar results. Alone among the justices studied, only Potter Stewart and Lewis Powell show any systematic support for stare decisis at all.

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