Stare Decisis Doctrine

Although we have a healthy respect for the principle of stare decisis, we should not blindly continue to apply a rule of law that does not accord with what is right and just. In other words, while we accord "due regard to the principle of stare decisis," it is also this Court's duty "to overrule prior decisions when we are convinced beyond ... doubt that such decisions were wrong when decided or that time has [effected] such change as to require a change in the law." Beasley v. Bozeman, 294 Ala. 288, 291, 315 So. 2d 570, 572 (1975) (Jones, J., concurring specially). Chief Justice Vanderbilt, of the New Jersey Supreme Court, wrote extensively of the role of the doctrine of stare decisis in his dissent in Fox v. Snow, 6 N.J. 12, 76 A.2d 877 (1950): The doctrine of stare decisis neither renders the courts impotent to correct their past errors nor requires them to adhere blindly to rules that have lost their reason for being. The common law would be sapped of its life blood if stare decisis were to become a god instead of a guide. The doctrine when properly applied operates only to control change, not to prevent it. As Mr. Cardozo has put it, 'Few rules in our time are so well established that they may not be called upon any day to justify their existence as means adapted to an end. If they do not function they are diseased. If they are diseased, they must not propagate their kind. Sometimes they are cut out and extirpated altogether. Sometimes they are left with the shadow of continued life, but sterilized, truncated, impotent for harm.' Nature of the Judicial Process (1921) 98. ... "... the doctrine of stare decisis tends to produce certainty in our law, but it is important to realize that certainty per se is but a means to an end, and not an end in itself. Certainty is desirable only insofar as it operates to produce the maximum good and the minimum harm and thereby to advance justice. ... When it appears that the evil resulting from a continuation of the accepted rule must be productive of greater mischief to the community than can possibly ensue from disregarding the previous adjudications on the subject, courts have frequently and wisely departed from precedent, 14 Am. Jur., Courts, 126." 6 N.J. at 23-25, 76 A.2d at 883-84.