Reason and Rhetoric in Edwards v. Vannoy

36 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2021 Last revised: 29 Apr 2022

See all articles by Richard M. Re

Richard M. Re

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: June 11, 2021


Judicial reasoning and rhetoric should be mutually reinforcing, but they often end up at odds. Edwards v. Vannoy offers an unusually rich opportunity to explore this tension. First, the watershed exception, though declared “moribund,” may actually have survived. Second, Justice Gorsuch’s ostensibly strict judgment-based approach arguably called for providing relief in Edwards. Third, majority coalitions have a counterintuitive incentive to overrule relatively insignificant precedents as often as possible. Fourth, Edwards featured charges of personal inconsistency that both reflect and facilitate the erosion of conventional legal argument. Finally, the legal system may benefit from the superficial and even fallacious reasoning often present in judicial decisions, including excellent ones. Other topics include Edwards’s use of remedial equilibration, its procedural irregularities, and its defensible if unfamiliar approach to stare decisis.

Keywords: Precedent, Habeas corpus, rhetoric, Teague, stare decisis

Suggested Citation

Re, Richard M., Reason and Rhetoric in Edwards v. Vannoy (June 11, 2021). 17 Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 63 (2022), Available at SSRN: or

Richard M. Re (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

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Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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