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AP Gov



Unit 2

2.9 Legitimacy of the Judicial Branch

1 min readjune 11, 2020


Akhilesh Shivaramakrishnan

In section 2.9, we will explore how the judicial branch aims to stay independent, and the concepts of precedent and stare decisis, as well as the confirmation process for judges.

Precedent and Stare Decisis 🤓

Stare decisis means “let the decision stand.” Most Supreme Court cases are decided based on this concept - justices rely on previous, related cases and the decisions issued there to guide their rulings. This is called following precedent.
However, the Court CAN overturn previous decisions and not abide by stare decisis. A key example is when Plessy v. Ferguson (separate but equal) was overturned by Brown v. Board of Education (separate can never be equal). 

Confirmation Process 👩🏽‍⚖️

Federal judges are appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the Senate. For the Supreme Court, a complete background check is conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for all potential justices.
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearings before the full Senate votes on the nominee. Presidents normally appoint justices that share their ideological values.
Because these justices serve for life, Supreme Court justices are often an important part of a president’s legacy. Whether precedent is followed, especially in controversial rulings, often depends on the ideological balance of the Supreme Court.


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