A Google search will produce a long list of quotations affirming the right to change one’s mind.
When a judge gives a decision contradicting one of their earlier judgments that becomes more difficult.
Judges have a way of finessing a reversal of opinions which they may have expressed in an earlier judgment.
Two of the judges sitting in the recent United Kingdom Supreme Court case in the Financial Conduct Authority v Arch Insurance changed their minds on the application of the trends clause in a business interruption policy as previously articulated in the Orient-Express Hotels judgment 2010 EWHC 1186.
In reaching a different conclusion to that which they reached over 10 years ago they invoked the good humoured justifications of Justice Jackson in McGrath v Kristensen 340 US 162, 177-8 (1950):
“Precedent, however, is not lacking for ways by which a judge may recede from a prior opinion that has proven untenable and perhaps misled others. See Chief Justice Taney, License Cases, 5 How 504, recanting views he had pressed upon the Court as Attorney General of Maryland in Brown v Maryland, 12 Wheat 419. Baron Bramwell extricated himself from a somewhat similar embarrassment by saying, ‘The matter does not appear to me now as it appears to have appeared to me then.’ Andrew v Styrap, 26 LTR (NS) 704, 706. And Mr Justice Story, accounting for his contradiction of his own former opinion, quite properly put the matter: ‘My own error, however, can furnish no ground for its being adopted by this Court. …’ United States v Gooding, 12 Wheat 460, 25 US 478. Perhaps Dr Johnson really went to the heart of the matter when he explained a blunder in his dictionary – ‘Ignorance, sir, ignorance.’ But an escape less self-depreciating was taken by Lord Westbury, who, it is said, rebuffed a barrister’s reliance upon an earlier opinion of his Lordship: ‘I can only say that I am amazed that a man of my intelligence should have been guilty of giving such an opinion.’ If there are other ways of gracefully and good naturedly surrendering former views to a better considered position, I invoke them all.”