RBG’s Departure Might Look A Lot Like Thurgood Marshall’s

Justice Ginsburg has had quite a few health scares over the past little over a decade. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009 and subsequently resisted pressure to retire from the Court under Obama’s administration.  With multiple hospital stays this year and a recurrence of her pancreatic cancer, many question how long she will…

Clear Polarization in Second Level Supreme Court Decision Making

Over the past five Supreme Court Terms the justices have issued 157 separate opinions from Court orders. These are cases that are not orally argued and do not receive full merits consideration. We do not necessarily know all the justices votes in these cases – only the ones the justices made public through signing onto separate opinions. Of these 157 opinions, only two include at least one conservative and one liberal justice signed onto the same opinion. Both are dissents from Justices Gorsuch and Sotomayor in criminal cases. The other 155 separate opinions split the justices ideologically or are solo authored. The spotlight on the Court’s polarization could not be clearer.

SCOTUSBlog Final Stat Pack OT 2019

The Court released its final merits decisions for the 2019 term on Thursday 7/9/2020. We released the Stat Pack the following day which includes a bevy of statistical analyses tracking the decisions from this past term. The accompanying post begins: A Supreme Court term unlike any other has finally come to an end. In March,…

Precedent: Which Justices Practice What They Preach

While Supreme Court Justices are by no means bound by their past decisions, the Court often respects its past decisions for a variety of reasons. The reasons given for adhering the Court’s past precedents are often across between cases. Justice Kagan offered her interpretation for remaining faithful to precedent in dissent in last term’s Knick…

Interesting Meetings of the Minds of Supreme Court Justices

Unanimity in the Supreme Court used to be the norm. In the early Supreme Court there were few dissents and so there was little opportunity to see differences between the justices’ views outside of how they authored their majority opinions. This practice has changed over the years as now decisions are more frequently divided rather…

Drilling into the Content of the Supreme Court’s May Arguments

The Supreme Court heard some of the most important cases of the term in a month when there almost were no arguments at all.  The Court canceled its March and April sitting due to COVID-19.  With flexible ingenuity, it then rescheduled ten arguments for May, which was the first time the Court had anything near…

Changes in Supreme Court Oral Argument Format: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

With a week of telephonic Supreme Court oral arguments under the belt we now have meaningful data points to compare old style oral arguments with the new framework. These new arguments were not without mishaps, however, as both justices and attorneys attempted to navigate this new terrain.  With the Supreme Court transcript data and audio…

Younger vs. Older

Yesterday the Court released a divided decision in Georgia v Public.Resource.Org with Justices Roberts, Kagan, Sotomayor, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh in the majority and Justices Alito, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer in dissent. As several folks pointed out, this was an interesting split of the justices since the majority was composed of the five younger justices on…

Something We Haven’t Seen in the Supreme Court Since the Civil War

The Civil War was fought between 1861 and 1865 and the Court was affected by the war like all national institutions. During the second year of the war in 1862 the Court decided 41 cases by signed decisions and in 1864 the Court decided 57 such cases.  According to the United States Supreme Court Database,…

SCOTUSBlog Interim Stat Pack April 2020

The Interim Stat Pack is now up on SCOTUSBlog’s website. Here are some key takeaways: The last time the Supreme Court closed its doors to the public due to an epidemic was during the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918. Through March of this term, the court has decided fewer cases by signed opinion than it has…

Locating Weak Causal Strands in the Justices’ Opinions

In the introduction to the eye opening work on the Supreme Court certiorari process Deciding to Decide, author H.W. Perry summarizes the Court’s lack of institutional transparency. Perry wrote, “Although some rules are published, most of the internal procedures are by consensus, are unpublished, and are frequently unknown” (p. 17). Perry goes on, “We on…