Reason and Rhetoric in Edwards v. Vannoy
36 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2021 Last revised: 29 Apr 2022
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
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