Considering Precedent in Louisiana: Balancing the Value of Predictable and Certain Interpretation with the Tradition of Flexibility and Adaptability
22 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2012 Last revised: 13 Nov 2014
Date Written: October 2, 2012
Despite the fundamental differences between the doctrines employed in common law and civil law (or mixed) jurisdictions when it comes to the respect paid to prior court decisions and their weight or value, United States courts that follow the common law doctrine of stare decisis have embraced some of the flexibility inherent in the civil law doctrine, and civil law and mixed jurisdictions throughout the world, including Louisiana, that use the doctrine of jurisprudence constante seem to have come to value the predictability and certainty that come with the common law doctrine. This Article suggests that Louisiana courts are striking the right balance between valuing the predictability and certainty of interpretation that comes with a healthy respect for precedent and maintaining the flexibility and adaptability of the law by not strictly considering precedent a source of law. This Article discusses the results of an ongoing examination of the sources of law and the value of precedent in Louisiana. The examination involves a study of Louisiana legislation, Louisiana courts' writings about the sources of law and precedent, and a survey of Louisiana judges. Part of the examination included reviewing Louisiana judicial opinions on various issues to determine if there were differences in valuing precedent based on area of law or topic. It also included reviewing judicial opinions from the United States Supreme Court and New York state courts to compare these courts' approaches to the use of precedent with those of the Louisiana courts. The article is based on a paper presented to the Third Congress of Mixed Jurisdiction Jurists, which was held in Jerusalem, Israel in June 2011, and the author's prior writings on the subject.
Keywords: civil law, precedent, Louisiana, stare decisis, jurisprudence constante
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