What Does “Stare Decisis” Mean, & What Does It Have to Do With Brett Kavanaugh?

brett kavanaugh fraternity

Getty During his time as an undergraduate at Yale University, Kavanaugh was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity that was "notorious for disrespecting women."

The phrase “stare decisis” (pronounced “starry decisis”) has been mentioned several times throughout Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s hearing. But what does that mean, exactly?

According to Wex Legal Dictionary, “stare decisis” translated from latin means, quite literally, “to stand by things decided.” Legal experts and scholars use it to reference a doctrine of precedent. In other words, courts cite to stare decisis when an issue has already been decided upon in a previous ruling.

Here’s how stare decisis has been referenced throughout the Senate confirmation hearing.

Kavanaugh References Roe v. Wade as a Stare Decisis Over the Years

To Sen. Dianne Feinsten, Kavanaugh answered her question of whether his views on abortion have changed since he worked in the Bush White House by saying, “Senator, I said that it’s settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court, entitled to respect under principles of stare decisis. One of the important things to keep in mind about Roe v. Wade is that it has been reaffirmed many times over the past 43 years.”

Kavanaugh has consistently referenced Roe v. Wade as a precedent, though he later would not give a clear answer on whether or not he believed it was the correct precedent, as well as whether or not he believed it was a “settled law of the land.”


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