Is a conservative court sending a message that it is willing to overturn cases that are well settled law? Maybe yes, maybe no.
“The Washington Post-The Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned a 41-year-old precedent Monday, prompting a pointed warning from liberal justices about “which cases the court will overrule next.”
The issue in Monday’s 5 to 4 ruling was one of limited impact: whether states have sovereign immunity from private lawsuits in the courts of other states. In 1979, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no constitutional right to such immunity, although states are free to extend it to one another and often do.
But the court’s conservative majority overruled that decision, saying there was an implied right in the Constitution that means states ‘could not be haled involuntarily before each other’s courts,’ in the words of Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote Monday’s decision.
Thomas acknowledged the departure from the legal doctrine of stare decisis, in which courts are to abide by settled law without a compelling reason to overrule the decision.
But he said the court’s decision four decades ago in Nevada v. Hall ‘is contrary to our constitutional design and the understanding of sovereign immunity shared by the states that ratified the Constitution. Stare decisis does not compel continued adherence to this erroneous precedent.’”