Understanding the Concept of Stare Decisis

Stare Decisis is a legal principle originating from Latin, translating to ‘to stand by that which is decided’. This principle dictates that courts are required to respect the precedent established by former rulings, ensuring consistency and predictability of law.

The Importance of Stare Decisis

Stare Decisis is a cornerstone of the legal world. Its crucial role lies in achieving a just legal system, providing a stable and predictable environment that facilitates fair adjudication. It is the basis for the judgment of similar future cases to set a common standard for legal interpretation.

Stare Decisis in Practice

A well-known case that demonstrates the application of the principle of stare decisis is ‘Roe vs. Wade’. The U.S. Supreme Court decision set a precedent for the constitutionality of a woman’s right to have an abortion. This case firmly put into practice the implications of the stare decisis principle, since subsequent related cases have often cited this ruling as a significant precedent, leading them to uphold similar decisions.

Characteristics of Stare Decisis

Under the principle of stare decisis, a court is bound by its previous decisions if the same points arise again in litigation. In addition, a court is generally bound by the decisions of higher courts in the same jurisdiction.

  • The principle requires that once a point of law has been settled, it should not be re-argued in future cases, maintaining judicial efficiency and creating a more predictable legal landscape.
  • Decisions made by higher courts have binding precedence over lower courts—This creates a hierarchy of respect and ensures that judgments are made consistently.

Implications and Critiques of Stare Decisis

Despite its crucial role in the legal system, stare decisis, like any other principle, has its critiques. Some argue that the principle can lead to perpetuation of unjust or outdated decisions. However, the doctrine does allow for flexibility and change, as a court can overrule a precedent if it deems it incorrect or unworkable.


Stare decisis is a fundamental principle in our legal system that promotes consistency, predictability, and respect for established legal views. While it is not without its critics, it remains a vital mechanism for proper judicial processing, offering a balance between respect for precedent and the need for legal evolution.