Loud Voices From Below

The Supreme Court only takes a small fraction of cases petitioned to it every year and there is no perfect formula for ensuring a case makes its way to the Court.  There are, however, several signals that can help a case along the way.  Much of what matters has to do with uniformity in case…

An Uphill Battle for the Court’s Liberals

“[I]f a law be in opposition to the Constitution, if both the law and the Constitution apply to a particular case, so that the Court must either decide that case conformably to the law, disregarding the Constitution, or conformably to the Constitution, disregarding the law, the Court must determine which of these conflicting rules governs…

A Matter of Life and Death

The Supreme Court may be on summer recess but that doesn’t mean the justices are free from work-related obligations.  Throughout the year some of the most significant decisions the justices make are performed unilaterally.  The justices are each assigned to a certain geographic region associated with a judicial circuit or circuits and by virtue of…

Justice Gorsuch: What We Know and What We Should Expect

Justice Gorsuch is just over two months into his tenure on the Supreme Court.  There are many unknowns regarding how he will judge at this level.  The cases he will decide on the Supreme Court are predominately different from those he saw on the 10th Circuit.  There is also an intuition that circuit court judges’…

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…