Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298, 24 (1992)

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Cite as: 504 U. S. 298 (1992)

Opinion of White, J.

we maintain public confidence in our ability—sometimes to adopt new principles for the resolution of new issues without abandoning clear holdings of the past that those principles contradict. We seemed to be doing that in this area. Having affirmatively suggested that the "physical presence" rule could be reconciled with our new jurisprudence, we ought not visit economic hardship upon those who took us at our word. We have recently told lower courts that "[i]f a precedent of this Court has direct application in a case, yet appears to rest on reasons rejected in some other line of decisions, [they] should follow the case which directly controls, leaving to this Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions." Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U. S. 477, 484 (1989). It is strangely incompatible with this to demand that private parties anticipate our overrulings. It is my view, in short, that reliance upon a square, unabandoned holding of the Supreme Court is always justifiable reliance (though reliance alone may not always carry the day). Finally, the "physical presence" rule established in Bellas Hess is not "unworkable," Patterson, supra, at 173; to the contrary, whatever else may be the substantive pros and cons of the rule, the "bright-line" regime that it establishes, see ante, at 314, is unqualifiedly in its favor. Justice White's concern that reaffirmance of Bellas Hess will lead to a flurry of litigation over the meaning of "physical presence," see post, at 331, seems to me contradicted by 25 years of experience under the decision.

For these reasons, I concur in the judgment of the Court and join Parts I, II, and III of its opinion.

Justice White, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Today the Court repudiates that aspect of our decision in National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill., 386 U. S. 753 (1967), which restricts, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the power of the States to impose use tax collection responsibilities on out-


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