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Stare Decisis

Stare decisis — "to stand by things decided"— (Latin: [ˈstaːre deːˈkiːsiːs], Anglicisation: [ˈsteɹɪ diˈsaɪsɪs]) is a Latin legal term, used in common law systems expressing the notion that, according to case law, prior court decisions must be recognized as precedent. The full legal term is "stare decisis et non quieta movere" meaning "stand by decisions and do not move that which is still" (NOTE: famously, "quieta non movere" is a maxim akin to "let sleeping dogs lie").

In the United States, which uses a common law system in its federal courts, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has stated:

Stare decisis is the policy of the court to stand by precedent; the term is but an abbreviation of stare decisis et non quieta movere — "to stand by and adhere to decisions and not disturb what is settled." Consider the word "decisis." The word means, literally and legally, the decision. Nor is the doctrine stare dictis; it is not "to stand by or keep to what was said." Nor is the doctrine stare rationibus decidendi — "to keep to the rationes decidendi of past cases." Rather, under the doctrine of stare decisis a case is important only for what it decides — for the "what," not for the "why," and not for the "how." Insofar as precedent is concerned, stare decisis is important only for the decision, for the detailed legal consequence following a detailed set of facts.[1]

In other words, stare decisis applies to the holding of a case, rather than to obiter dicta. As the United States Supreme Court has put it: "dicta may be followed if sufficiently persuasive but are not binding."[2]

The doctrine that holdings have binding precedential value is not valid within most civil law jurisdictions as it is argued that this principle interferes with the right of judges to interpret law and the right of the legislature to make law. Most such systems, however, recognize the concept of jurisprudence constante, which argues that even though judges are independent, they should rule in a predictable and non-chaotic manner. Therefore, judges' right to interpret law does not preclude the adoption of a small number of selected binding case laws.

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