A Matter of Perspective: Textualism, Stare Decisis, and Federal Employment Discrimination Law – Article by Stephen M. Rich

From Volume 87, Number 5 (July 2014)

When the Supreme Court rules on matters of statutory interpretation, it does not establish “methodological precedents.” The Court is not bound to follow interpretive practices employed in a prior case even if successive cases concern the same statute. Instead, the Court’s interpretive practices may change without warning or explanation, and at times they do so as part of a broader transition between interpretive regimes independently of any substantive change to the statute interpreted. Stare decisis appears to require no justification for changes in the Court’s interpretive practices. This is striking because abrupt changes in the interpretive practices applied to a statute have the power to disrupt the consistency and predictability of a statute’s enforcement and the rationality of its design.