Overturning Precedent

Overturning Precedent - conflict with the national...

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Overturning Precedent Judges rely on precedents when deciding their cases, but the Supreme Court also has the power to overturn precedents. Some of the most famous cases in American legal history have overturned precedents. For example, the civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which outlawed segregation in public schools, overturned the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson. State and federal courts are reluctant to overturn precedent because the law needs to be stable for the courts to have legitimacy. It would be impossible for anyone to obey a law that kept changing. At the same time, judges recognize that the law must change to stay relevant. The courts need to strike a balance between stability and change. Constitutions The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. No law or act of government—at the local, state, or federal level—can violate its principles. Similarly, a state’s constitution is the supreme law within the state’s borders, so long as the state constitution does not
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Unformatted text preview: conflict with the national Constitution. Marbury v. Madison Federal courts have assumed the power of judicial review, the right to determine the constitutional legality of state and federal laws, congressional and presidential acts, and lower-court rulings. Likewise, each state court has assumed the power to determine the legality of legislative and gubernatorial decisions within its own borders. The power of judicial review is not codified in the Constitution, however. Many state supreme courts had already assumed this power by the time the Constitution was ratified in 1789, and Chief Justice John Marshall set a precedent for federal judicial review in the 1803 case Marbury v. Madison. Federal courts use their power of judicial review sparingly, primarily because they have no means of enforcing their decisions. Nevertheless, judicial review is the most significant power of the judiciary branch....
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