Precedent and Judicial Power after the Founding
Boston College Law Review, Vol. 42, pp 81-121, December 2000
Posted: 3 Sep 2001 Last revised: 9 Jan 2011
Date Written: January 6, 2011
A recent decision by a panel of the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit enlivened the controversy over court rules that prevent citation to unpublished opinions when it held that the Circuit's non-citation rule violates Article III of the United States Constitution. This Article affirms the view that judicial power includes a doctrine of precedent, without relying solely upon an originalist interpretation of Article III. This approach identifies a consistent "core idea" of precedent that courts must consider how a similar case was decided in the past, even where there are varying ideas about the binding nature of that precedent. A long-standing tradition has viewed precedent as a necessary starting point for judicial decision. When a court departs from this core idea, it violates the essential function of the judiciary to treat like cases alike or explain the difference.
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