Legal Question in Constitutional Law in New Hampshire

I once heard of a principle that says, in effect, "The absence of a compelling reason to change a law is in itself a compelling reason to leave it unchanged." Can you tell me the name of that principle, and its correct wording?


Asked on 6/21/10, 12:43 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Andrew Winters Cohen & Winters, PLLC

Stare Decisis

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Answered on 6/21/10, 4:22 pm
Edmund Burke Edmund B Burke, Attorney at Law

"Stare decisis" is short for the Latin legal motto of "Stare decisis et non quieta movere" which means roughly, "stand by (prior judicial) decisions and do not disturb the undisturbed." Basically, it means a court should follow binding precedent -- prior judicial decisions -- in most cases.

It does not always apply, as sometimes a court will overrule a prior decision, holding for instance that it was a mistake. Think of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the US Supreme Court held that a state could not legally segregate its schools by race. This overruled its prior 60-year old decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, where the court ruled that Louisiana could require segregated railway cars, so long as the facilities were "separate but equal."

Your principle is not exactly the same as Stare Decisis as it appears to apply to legislation passed by the legislature (e.g. either Congress or a State), rather than to court decisions. I don't know that it has an "official" name but just appears to be a pithy saying, with some wisdom I should add.

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Answered on 6/24/10, 8:28 am

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