But – and you, Alito? – the radical right of the Supreme Court put the knife in the stare decisis in its decision annulling Roe vs. Wade and destroying 50 years of precedent upon precedent.
The dissenting judges wrote that “the majority abandons stare decisis”, an act which “threatens to upset fundamental legal doctrines”, “creates profound legal instability” and “calls into question this Court’s commitment to legal principle”.
The majority protested that they had not abandoned stare decisis — then explained why: “Stare decisis is not an inexorable order. … Stare decisis is not a straitjacket.
The burial of stare decisis leaves us ipso facto in a vacuum: what Latin phrase best describes the legal doctrine of this new era, in which judges rule by whim and not by precedent? Well, thanks for your lucky looks, because my classics consultant, Vanessa (she asked that her last name not be used in order to speak straight Latin), has plenty of options.
Labels such as “judicial modesty”, “judicial restraint” and “originality” have been trashed with stare decisis. For this radical majority, now demanding “restraint” would be the very definition of watch mendaciis – to stick to the lies. Other best labels for the new philosophy of the majority of courts are watch quote (holding on to inconsistent things), or maybe stare (standing next to a foul smell), in honor of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s question during the closing arguments: “Will this institution survive the stench it creates?”
But perhaps the most accurate is watch sodalitate — to defend your political party. To the Romans, it meant either “electoralist gang” or “religious brotherhood”, two apt descriptions of the right wing of this court.
Other potential principles are discussed. This week’s January 6 committee hearing revealed that President Donald Trump, after receiving unpleasant information (such as his attorney general’s refusal to bless his election lies), would throw his meal against the wall. It would be watch cibo iacto — stand next to discarded food (although other scholars use look vasis fractis — stand near broken dishes).
The Republican Party, even now, remains firmly loyal to Trump, adhering to what is known as the Wynette Doctrine, watch homine tuo – stay by your man’s side.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) claims she was tricked by Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch into thinking they wouldn’t overturn deer — an example of staring in gullibilityto remain gullible.
At a Trump rally, Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.) practiced gaze hominibus albis — to stand with white people — when she called the abortion decision a “victory for white lives.” (She said she misspoke, though the crowd cheered.)
Congressional candidate Yesli Vega, the GOP nominee to replace Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) said “it wouldn’t surprise me ‘if it’s hard for a woman to get pregnant after rape,’ because that it’s not something that happens organically,” according to a Axios Registration. That’s what we call watch rapina legitima – to defend legitimate rape – affirming the precedent set by Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-Mo.), Who said in 2012: “If this is legitimate rape, the female body has ways of trying to stop it all.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton revives the doctrine of look against pedicandum (standing up against sodomy) by saying he would defend a 1973 anti-sodomy law overturned two decades ago. Judge Clarence Thomas invited challenges to that ruling, along with others protecting same-sex marriage and contraception.
The texts show that Thomas’s wife, Ginni, urged the Trump White House to “liberate the Kraken” from false claims of voter fraud – a philosophy known as watch monstersto stand with sea monsters.
The court’s right-wing majority might also share the belief of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who said she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk,” which , according to her, came from a “stinking letter” from Thomas Jefferson, not the Constitution. Demonstration stare – to stand with the church – Boebert decreed that “the church is supposed to run the government”.
Another creed comes from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who attacked Elmo for “Sesame Street” promoting vaccination against the coronavirus. This is watch against the pupae – oppose the Muppets.
Recent court decisions invite many other Latin descriptors: stare at (to stick to cruelty), stare decuriation (stand up to bullying), definition of the gaze capitis (stand at the loss of freedoms). But in the end, a court that abandoned precedent is worthless (no look) except for the gross exercise of power — imperio gaze. And that leads to a place: look at the ruinto resist destruction.