Supreme Court Review: Some Justices Would Have Overruled Precedent

July 28, 2014

Supreme Court BuildingWhile the United States Supreme Court did not overrule any of its precedents during the recently completed 2013-14 Term, in five of its decisions, a minority of the Court would have done so.

Those justices presented their views in concurring or dissenting opinions. But the majority rules, and the views of the minority won’t immediately generate a KeyCite flag, but might do so in the future, because there’s a KeyCite treatment for “Recognizing disagreement with.”

For example, in a campaign finance case, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, 134 S.Ct. 1434, Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, stating that he would have gone further than the majority, and would have overruled Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1, 96 S.Ct. 612, 46 L.Ed.2d 659 (1976). Since his view didn’t carry the day, Buckley survives — although the views of the majority in McCutcheon did immediately generate a “Holding limited” treatment for Buckley on KeyCite (that’s a yellow-flag event).

In the future, if some other court or judge acknowledges that Justice Thomas would have overruled Buckley, a Thomson Reuters attorney editor will make a “recognizing disagreement with” treatment for Buckley on KeyCite. This treatment can be helpful to researchers, who might be interested in Justice Thomas’s reasoning, and might attach some significance to the identity of the court or judge who recognized Justice Thomas’s disagreement with Buckley — and therefore would want to know if the court or judge also had something to say about Buckley.