A precedent has been a concern for a lot of people when Judge Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court. This past week, Justice Clarence Thomas encouraged this court to break with the norm and judge in a way that is fair and just. Thomas hopes that more on the Supreme Court will adopt his view and seek to overturn past rulings.
In a previous case, Thomas wrote that the Supreme Court should limit precedent and seek facts and the truth. He stated, “demonstrably erroneous” precedents should be reevaluated. He went on to say, “When faced with a demonstrable erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: we should not follow it.”
Thomas firmly believes that the rule needs to be followed. Back in 1992, Thomas stood alone when he spoke about the court’s decision and went against the Casey ruling. The case was the Planned Parenthood v. Casey. He did not believe that the ruling should have followed the Roe decision from decades earlier.
Thomas was appointed by Bush in 1991. He is also the longest-serving judge on the bench at this time. He is considered to be a highly conservative judge. Earlier this year he went against precedent when he wrote about his belief that the case New York Times v. Sullivan which ruled that public officials would see a harder time to win libel lawsuits against them.
Jonathan Entin, who is a professor of law at the Case Western Reserve University, stated that “Thomas says legal questions have objectively correct answers, and judges should find them regardless of whether their colleagues or predecessors found different answers.” He has also stated that “Everyone is concerned about this because they’re thinking about Roe v. Wade.”
Thomas gets his belief from a Latin term that reads, “stare decisis” which has no boundaries. It claims that judges that are looking at precedent to decide an outcome should look at the factors surrounding the case and see if they really work or not. They also should look at the stability within the law, and whether it is a normal practice within the country itself.
Justice Rehnquist wrote about a ruling in 1966 that requires police to inform people of their rights, “the principles of stare decisis weigh heavily against overruling it now.” Thomas was not in favor of that decision and sided with Antonin Scalia’s departure from the ruling of the case. Scalia was quoted as saying of Thomas, “doesn’t believe in stare decisis, period. If a constitutional line of authority is wrong, he would say let’s get it right. I wouldn’t do that.”
The idea of stare decisis has influenced the court this year when they overturned a 1979 precedent that originally allowed people to sue states. Stephen Breyer, who is a current serving liberal judge, stated and agreed with the break from precedent saying, “a well-reasoned decision that has caused no serious practical problems. The May decision can only cause one to wonder which cases the Court will overrule next.”
Thomas wants to see the Supreme Court start ruling on the correct and the right meaning of the facts presented and the interpretation of the law. Judge Thomas would also write, “In our constitutional structure, our rule of upholding the law’s original meaning is reason enough to correct course.” He believes that precedent should be above the law.
John McGinnis, who is a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago, has stated,” That’s very different from what the Court does today.” He believes that Thomas’s belief, “makes clear that in a narrow area he will give some weight to precedent. But at the same time, he thinks cases have one right answer and might find more cases ‘demonstrably erroneous.’”
President Trump continues to change the current makeup of the courts at every level. Every time a liberal judge steps down he is quick to nominate a conservative judge to replace the person. The President wants to see a fair court system for future generations. This is one part of his plan to help make the United States a great place to live once again.