Volume 71, Number 3

June 1996

The Impact of Liberty on Stare Decisis: The Rehnquist Court from Casey to Lawrence

Drew C. Ensign

Although stare decisis is a firmly established doctrine tracing its roots to fifteenthcentury English common law, the Rehnquist Court developed it in remarkable ways. The Court’s decisions effectively made liberty considerations an important stare decisis factor in constitutional cases. Where prior decisions took an expansive view of the liberty protections of the Constitution, they were more likely to be upheld, and vice versa. This Note analyzes this development, perhaps best exemplified by the differing outcomes in Casey and Lawrence, as well as its implications for the future jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.