Article III, Section 1:
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
Adherence to precedent ordinarily limits and shapes the approach of courts to decision of a presented question.
Stare decisis is usually the wise policy, because in most matters it is more important that the applicable rule of law be settled than that it be settled right . . . . This is commonly true even where the error is a matter of serious concern, provided correction can be had by legislation. But in cases involving the Federal Constitution, where correction through legislative action is practically impossible, this Court has often overruled its earlier decisions. The Court bows to the lessons of experience and the force of better reasoning, recognizing that the process of trial and error, so fruitful in the physical sciences, is appropriate also in the judicial function.1 Stare decisis is a principle of policy, not a mechanical formula of adherence to the latest decision
however recent and questionable, when such adherence involves collision with a prior doctrine more embracing in its scope, intrinsically sounder, and verified by experience.2 The limitation of stare decisis seems to have been progressively weakened since the Court proceeded to correct
a century of error in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust Co.3 Since then, more than 200 decisions have been overturned,4 and the merits of stare decisis seem more often celebrated in dissents than in majority opinions.5 Of lesser formal effect than outright overruling but with roughly the same result is a Court practice of
distinguishing precedents, which often leads to an overturning of the principle enunciated in a case while leaving the actual case more or less alive.6