Justice Thomas: Supreme Court shouldn't follow erroneous precedent

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Justice Clarence Thomas said in a case concurring opinion Monday the Supreme Court should not feel bound to uphold precedent in reaching decisions.

Why it matters: If adopted by enough Supreme Court justices, this approach could see past decisions being overruled, including the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, which established a constitutional right to abortion. Conservative states are passing the most restrictive abortion laws in generations, setting up what could be a precedent-smashing Supreme Court challenge to the abortion status quo.

When faced with a demonstrably erroneous precedent, my rule is simple: We should not follow it."

The big picture: The court now has a 5-4 conservative majority. Thomas, one of the most conservative justices, made the comments in a double jeopardy case, Gamble v. United States, which generally prohibits a person from being charged twice for the same crime.

  • Thomas referred to the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which reaffirmed Roe v Wade, which he dissented from at the time, per Reuters. That decision said states couldn't place an undue burden on the constitutional right to an abortion recognized in the Roe v Wade ruling.

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