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Binding Authority – Stare Decisis

State v. Vincent T. Grady, 2007 WI 81, affirming 2006 WI App 188
For Grady: Donna L. Hintze, SPD, Madison Appellate


¶20      A prior interpretation of a statute is applied when courts subsequently consider the same statute. Progressive Northern Ins. Co. v. Romanshek, 2005 WI 67, ¶41, 281 Wis. 2d 300, 697 N.W.2d 417. The court may overturn a prior interpretation of a statute when it has been shown “not only that [the previous decision] was mistaken but also that it was objectively wrong, so that the court has a compelling reason to overrule it.” Wenke v. Gehl Co., 2004 WI 103, ¶21, 274 Wis. 2d 220, 682 N.W.2d 405. Our adherence to a previous interpretation applies to both decisions of this court and the court of appeals.State v. Douangmala, 2002 WI 62, ¶42, 253 Wis. 2d 173, 646 N.W.2d 1.

The court goes on to say that where a prior case did not in fact reach a certain issue, the stare decisis principle isn’t triggered, even though subsequent cases mistakenly if repetitively described that case as having enunciated a “holding” on that issue: these “characterizations … do not represent holdings of any appellate court,” ¶25.

Additional discussion of stare decisis doctrine: Bartholomew v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund, 2006 WI 91, ¶¶31-34; Ferdon v. Wis. Patients Comp. Fund, 2005 WI 125, ¶¶30-31.

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