What is Stare Decisis (Morse v. Frederick)
Stare decisis is when a court must rely upon precedent when deciding similar cases. This way there is some consistency in court rulings and decisions. Today, we are going to explore the case of Morse v. Frederick, and the new precedent the supreme court set going forth with similar cases. Afterward, I am going to give my opinion on how this new precedent may or may not hurt society going forward.
The case I chose was Morse v. Frederick. In this case, Joseph Frederick showed up to a school event with a banner that said: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” The principal of the school then suspended Frederick for ten days because Frederick was promoting illegal drugs. This is when Frederick decided to sue the school because he argued that parading a banner that says “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” was his way of exercising free speech. The District Court agreed with Morse saying she did no wrong when she decided to suspend him, but the US Appeals Court concluded differently. Because Morse suspended Frederick for the message on his banner, the courts deemed she was a violation of Frederick's constitutional right to free speech. Morse instead should have sued because the banner was causing a “disturbance” so that way she would not be suspending him for enforcing his constitutional right of free speech. That was the case in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District where students were suspended for wearing a wristband for a truce of the Vietnam War in fear that the wristbands would interfere with school (Morse v. Frederick, 2006).
However, the Supreme Court established a precedent that school officials can stop students from promoting drug use since it is against school policy. Also, students do not have the same freedom of speech as adults. This does not mean students cannot express their forms of free speech. This means that students cannot promote drug use in school.
I believe both federal and state courts of all kinds are obligated to follow this new rule because this is a matter of the Constitution, so all must abide by the first amendment’s right to freedom of speech. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was the one who reversed the District Court’s decision, so they are obligated more specifically to follow this new rule. I agree with this precedent because students promoting drugs at such a young age can harm their peers which would have a negative impact on society since the youth is our nation’s future leaders. The Supreme Court’s precedent will have a positive impact on society because students will not believe they can promote any kind of message that can be harmful or disturbing to their peers. It’s almost like the precedent nipped negative free speech in the bud before it became a nationwide issue.
When the framers created the Constitution, they never imagined society would be the way it is today. Because the Constitution is so vague, it will always be up for debate and interpretation. As society becomes more intricate and developed, there will be more interpretations and more cases to establish a precedent on. Although I do advocate for freedom of speech, I believe even that has its limits.
Garner, B. (1999). Black's law dictionary (7th ed.). St. Paul, MN: West Group.
Landmark Supreme Court Cases ELessons. Bill of Rights Institute. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/educate/educator-resources/lessons-plans/landmark-supreme-court-cases-elessons/
Morse v. Frederick. (2006). Oyez. Retrieved April 6, 2023, from https://www.oyez.org/cases/2006/06-278