The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision May 13 in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt seemed to open the public’s eyes to a long-running reality: The high court does sometimes overrule its own opinions and is likely to do so in the future.
By the count of a Congressional Research Service report updated last September, the court has explicitly overruled past opinions 141 times since 1851. During his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. famously said that overturning precedents is “a jolt to the legal system,” but he added that sometimes, “there are situations when that’s a price that has to be paid.”
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