November 2014 Vol. 113 No. 2 THE REVIEW

The Scope of Precedent

Randy J. Kozel

The scope of Supreme Court precedent is capacious. Justices of the Court commonly defer to sweeping rationales and elaborate doctrinal frameworks articulated by their predecessors. This practice infuses judicial precedent with the prescriptive power of enacted constitutional and statutory text. The lower federal courts follow suit, regularly abiding by the Supreme Court's broad pronouncements. These phenomena cannot be explained by—and, indeed, oftentimes subvert—the classic distinction between binding holdings and dispensable dicta.

This Article connects the scope of precedent with recurring and foundational debates about the proper ends of judicial interpretation. A precedent's forward-looking effect should not depend on the superficial categories of holding and dictum. Instead, it should reflect deeper normative commitments that define the nature of adjudication within American legal culture.

The account that emerges is one in which the scope of precedent is inextricably linked to interpretive theory and constitutional understandings. Divergent methods of interpretation, from originalism to common law constitutionalism and beyond, carry distinctive implications for describing a precedent's constraining effect. So, too, do various methods of interpretation in the statutory and common law contexts. Ultimately, what should determine the scope of precedent is the set of premises—regarding the judicial role, the separation of powers, and the relevance of history, morality, and policy—that informs a judge's methodological choices.


Reinventing Copyright and Patent

Abraham Bell & Gideon Parchomovsky

Speedy Trial as a Viable Challenge to Chronic Underfunding in Indigent-Defense Systems

Emily Rose

Across the country, underresourced indigent-defense systems create delays in taking cases to trial at both the state and federal levels. Attempts to increase funding for indigent defense by bringing ineffective assistance of counsel claims have been thwarted by high procedural and substantive hurdles, and consequently these attempts have failed to bring significant change. This Note argues that, because ineffective assistance of counsel litigation is most likely a dead...

A Blended Approach to Reducing the Costs of Shareholder Litigation

Valian A. Afshar

Multiforum litigation and federal securities law class actions impose heavy costs on corporations and their shareholders without producing proportionate benefits. Both are largely the result of the agency problem between shareholders and their attorneys, driven more by the attorneys' interests in generating fees than by the interests of their clients. In response to each of these problems, commentators have recommended a number of solutions. Chief among them are forum selection...

& Other Current Events

Crawford v. Washington: A Ten Year Retrospective

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Come Back to the Boat, Justice Breyer!

I want to get Justice Breyer back on the right side of Confrontation Clause issues. In 1999, in Lilly...

Crawford v. Washington: The Next Ten Years

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The Crawford Debacle

First a toast-to my colleague Jeff Fisher and his Crawford compatriot, Richard Friedman, on the...

Confrontation and the Re-Privatization of Domestic Violence

When the Supreme Court transformed the right of confrontation in Crawford v. Washington, the prosecution...
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