Stare Decisis in Iowa
57 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 12, 2019
The rate at which a court overrules its own precedent reflects its relationship with the concept of stare decisis. Existing research provides some insight into how the United States Supreme Court and some state courts of last resort overrule cases. This Article, however, provides the first empirical study focused on the Iowa Supreme Court’s overruling decisions, providing quantitative information and descriptive statistics regarding the Iowa Supreme Court’s relationship with precedent. The study finds, over the Iowa Supreme Court’s lifespan, the court’s precedent has been fairly stable, though the rate of overrulings in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries has exceeded most other courts of last resort. Additionally, the court has issued a disproportionately high number of statutory overrulings throughout its history. The study also finds the most recent incarnation of the Iowa Supreme Court — the “Cady Court” — overrules cases at a similar rate to its predecessors, but it overrules proportionally more criminal, constitutional, and statutory cases. The Article concludes with an analysis of the statistical data in light of the Authors’ experience as litigators before the Iowa Supreme Court.
Keywords: Iowa Supreme Court, stare decisis, overruling
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