A New Way of Defining Oral Argument Terrain

Oral arguments are one of the more empirically studied areas of Supreme Court decision making.  This may make intuitive sense. Oral arguments are one of the few moments where the justices’ decision making process transpires before members of the public.  Audio of these arguments is recorded and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Video…well…

Gorsuch’s First Majority Opinion and Some Comparisons

This post contains information on the split votes in the Roberts Court Justices’ first decisions’, the days between oral argument and their first decisions, and the lower court that ruled prior to the Supreme Court in each decision. Of the justices on the Court (and Justice Scalia), three had non-unanimous first opinions.  Ginsburg had the…

Why Justice Kennedy May Not Leave The Court Right Now

The Supreme Court is not an institution with regular turnover.  Since the Justices have life tenure, many stay on well into old age and often for decades.  The Justices are insulated in their positions for life and there is little incentive to move to other jobs.  In fact, the last Justice to leave the Court…

The First Batch of Decisions Each Term

Through the first thirty-five slip-opinions of the Supreme Court’s 2016 term there are notable similarities and differences from the Court’s prior terms.  All decisions so far this term were determined by eight Justices or fewer as Justice Gorsuch has yet to sign on to a majority or separate slip-opinion (Beckles v. United States, for instance…

The Justices in Oral Arguments 2016

Supreme Court oral arguments are the only times that litigators directly and verbally interact with the Justices about pending cases.  The scholarship on whether these arguments factor into decision outcomes is mixed with some suggesting that the Justices come into oral arguments with predefined views in most cases while others suggesting that a variety of…

How Justice Thomas’ Discontent Channels Justice Douglas

Over the past year the Supreme Court has in many ways lacked consistency. Its membership has changed, there was a long period of uncertainty as to the future ideological balance of the Court, and with this uncertain future the Court looked like it might make its first strong shift to the left since the Warren…

How Will Gorsuch Decide on Cases from the Supreme Court’s April Calendar?

Recently confirmed Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be thrown into the middle of the 2017 oral argument season with the Court’s April hearings calendar beginning on April 17th.  One of the first questions that has already generated speculation is how Gorsuch will rule on cases this Term. This post adds some insight into how…

The Most Powerful Justices Across Time

Article III of the U.S. Constitution both limits the reach of the Supreme Court and at the same time gives the Justices great power.  As the only branch of the federal government with life tenure, the judicial branch maneuvers oftentimes outside of public spotlight and so judges are not subject to the same public pressures…

Patterns of Eight Justices: Will They Persist with a New Court Member?

The Supreme Court has had eight members for over a year now.  In that time the Justices authored seventy-seven majority opinions.  Of those opinions sixty-eight were signed.  Through this period there have been some interesting idiosyncrasies from the Justices that we haven’t seen in the past.  We have seen new potential voting coalitions as well…

Taking Care of Business

The Supreme Court tackles fewer cases by the year. SCOTUSBlog’s statistics as reported by First Mondays Podcast show that the Court has also been slower in writing signed opinions this term than in recent terms. What is leading to these changes? One clear anomaly from the Court’s norm is the length of time the Court…

When Justices Recuse, and When they Refuse

By Samuel Morse Over the summer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made the following comments about then presidential-candidate Donald Trump: “He is a faker…He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment.  He really has an ego. …How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns?…