Whether you are writing for a trial or appellate court, binding precedent is critical to a winning argument. But assume a district court of appeal took conflicting positions on an issue in two different opinions. Which one controls, the earlier opinion or the later one? The answer may surprise you.
Most lawyers believe—and some judicial opinions hold—that a district court’s three-judge panel is bound by a prior panel opinion until the district court sitting en banc or the Florida Supreme Court overrules it. Surprisingly, however, some district court opinions hold that when two-panel opinions conflict, the later opinion controls.
Florida Appeals appellate lawyer, Robert Scavone Jr., recently co-authored an article for the Florida Bar Journal that explores this horizontal stare decisis conundrum – A Not-So-Little Problem with Precedent: Intra-District Conflict in Florida District Courts of Appeal. Trial court litigators and appellate practitioners can benefit from its analysis.
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