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Justice Thomas: Supreme Court shouldn't follow erroneous precedent

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas poses for the official group photo at the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on November 30, 2018.
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.

QuoteWhen 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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