John Marshall chief Justice  1801-1835 revenue stamp


Last week, a draft Supreme Court Opinion was ‘leaked’ to the press,  overruling the Roe v Wade[1]  and Casey[2] cases which previously ruled restrictions on abortion unconstitutional.   In the draft of  the Mississippi case[3], attention was given to the doctrine of stare decisis, which means a case continues as law, and later cases uphold it, because the precedent was first or at least older.   

Stare Decisis sort of protects the old from the new.  The old case decision needs protection because, upon reflection or examination, it was  decided in haste, or ignorance, or desperation, or delusion, or expediency,  or curiosity, or embarrassment, or by agenda for a result unobtainable by open debate and legislative consensus.   Stare decisis is the argument to use to protect  past distant darkness from present light.  When a legal position is sliding down the slippery slope of  repeal and error, stare decisis maybe  the last ledge to grab onto before gravity pulls down the house of cards.

            Justice Alito listed the case names of some 10 decisions  in text, and 54 more in footnote 47, of cases dealing with stare decisis, and how a later case overruled an earlier case.

            Missing from the list of 64 were income tax cases, wherein the Supreme Court first took one position, then a later position.

            Here are some of the income tax decisions which failed to survive the  protection of stare decisis.

In Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company et al. 157 U.S. 429 (1895) Hyde v. Continental Trust Co. of City Of New York et al. the syllabus noted ‘The doctrine of stare decisis is a salutary one, and is to be adhered to on proper occasions, in respect of decisions directly upon points in issue; but this court should not extend any decision upon a constitutional question if it is convinced that error in principle might supervene. *** Overruling Hylton v. United States, 3 Dall. 171, (February Term, 1796 carriage tax case) and ending with Springer v. United States, 102 U. S. 586 (October Term, 1880, individual income tax). Pollock at 545.

 Pacific Insurance Co. v. Soule 7 Wall. 433, (business of an insurance company)

 Veazie Bank v. Fenno 8 Wall. 533,  544, 546, (circulation of state banks or national banks paying out the notes); Pollock at 576.

Provident Institution v. Massachusetts, 6 Wall. 611, Pollock at 578

Hamilton Company v. Massachusetts, 6 Wall. 632, (property tax) Pollock at 578

 Scholey v. Rew 3 Wall. 331, (succession tax). Pollock at 578

In re Elwes, 3 H. & N. 719; Pollock at 578

Attorney General v. Sefton, 2 H. & C. 362; Pollock at 578

S.C. (H.L.) 3 H. & C. 1023; 11 H.L.Cas. 257. Pollock at 578

Railroad Company v. Collector, 100 U. S. 595,  100 U. S. 596, (interest tax) Pollock at 578

Mercantile Bank v. New York, 121 U. S. 138, 161, 162, overruled Railroad Co. v. Peniston, 18 Wall. 5. Pollock at 482.

State Tax on Railway Gross Receipts, 15 Wall. 284, 293; Railroad Co. v. Collector, 100 U. S. 595, 598; 

Memphis & Charleston Railroad Co. v. United States, 108 U. S. 228, 234; 

Maine v. Grand Trunk Railway, 142 U. S. 217, 228; 

 Ficklen v. Shelby County, 145 U. S. 1, 24; 

Postal Telegraph Cable Co. v. Adams, 155 U. S. 688, 699; see also 2 Steph. Com. 6th ed. p. 603; 

Portland Bank v. Apthorp, 12 Mass. 252, 256; 

Commonwealth v. Hamilton Manufacturing Co. 12 Allen, 298, 307, aff. 6 Wall. 632; Commonwealth v. Lancaster Savings Bank, 123 Mass. 493; Connecticut Ins. Co. v. Commonwealth, 133 Mass. 161; Minot v. Winthrop, 162 Mass. 113.

Pollock at 473.

Head Money Cases, 112 U. S. 580 Pollock at 474

[1]  Cited as 410 U.S 113, decided in 1973.

[2]  Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v Casey, 505 U.S 833, decided in 1992.

[3]  Thomas E. Dobbs, State Health Officer of The Mississippi Department of Health et al, Petitioner v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization et al.

Roger Taney Chief justice Supreme Court 836-1864