Expect Kavanaugh To Shift the Court Right. How Far No One Knows.

The discussion over who will fill the Supreme Court vacancy has dominated much of the political conversation since Justice Kennedy announced his retirement from the Supreme Court on June 27.  Last night, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an obvious choice and the one I predicted in December 2017, was announced as nominee.  When Kennedy’s retirement rumors previously circulated,…

Judicial Politics, Roberts’ Dilemma, and One Crazy Term

This Supreme Court term was nerve racking for some conservatives (mainly unwarranted), most liberals (with good reason), and probably for some of the justices too, and yet all for different rationales. Below I’ll go through what may have caused this tension and why members of these three groups might have felt it. Before the Court’s…

One Opinion More Complex Than the Next

The Supreme Court finally appears decently situated to complete its decision making for the term.  Some holdups are still in play including the long since argued case of Gill v. Whitford.  Gill was argued 255 days from the next possible opinion release date of June 14, 2018.  Only 10 cases have taken longer to decide…

A Seismic Shift?

It seems out of a script by the writers of the film Groundhog Day.  At the end of the term each year Court watchers await the impending retirement of a justice.  Stories break in the months before June trying to sort through the imperfect information concerning such retirement plans. In recent years, speculation of an…

Retirement Plan Blues

It is that time of year again. As we near the end of the Supreme Court term, we are experiencing another round of prognostications on whether Justice Kennedy will retire leaving another vacancy for the Trump Administration to fill (last year’s take on the possibility of Kennedy’s retirement can be found here).  About this time of…

How Gorsuch’s First Year Compares

In 1986 when Justice Scalia joined the Supreme Court, the bench looked quite different than it does today. In fact, none of the justices on that Court still sit on the Supreme Court as Scalia was the final holdout.  In 1986 the Court was composed of five justices who were predominately ideologically conservative and four…

An Opinion is Worth at Least 1,000 Words

Supreme Court opinions come in all different shapes and sizes.  Some are short and sweet, others are dense, long, and hard to follow.  Some reasons behind relative opinion length are obvious.  Even though the justices tend not to grant cases with facile solutions, certain cases are more complex and involve extensive fact patterns.  Along with…

The Interpretive Dance

In the Supreme Court’s first decision of the term, Hamer v. Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited language from the court’s 2010 decision in Magwood v. Patterson stipulating that “[w]e cannot replace the actual text with speculation as to Congress’ intent.” Indeed, as Justice Elena Kagan wrote in the 2015 decision Ross…

When Opposites Attract Ideology Falls to the Wayside

Lots of noise is made about partisan and ideological divides on the Supreme Court.  There tends to be less hubbub surrounding instances when justices that traditionally divide ideologically, vote together. Such surprising coalitions formed in the majority and dissent for the Court’s decision in last week’s Patchak v. Zinke ruling.  Although this decision was met with only…

The Dissenting-est Dissenters on the Modern Court

The Court’s opinions have been sliced, diced, and dissected in various fashions over the years as scholars and practitioners look for overt and latent meanings in the Court’s texts.  An object of study has often been the dissenting opinion.  The dissent is an interesting point of focus because both because of its purpose and its…

Supreme Court Movers and Shakers (Attorneys and Justices)

The consequences of certain decisions have repercussions far beyond those that affect the immediate cases.  While this is an indisputable aspect of decisions from courts of last resort, prognosticating the potential consequences of decisions is an art fraught with questionable inferences.  In a series of decisions the Supreme Court has a substantial policy impact. These…

A Chicken and Egg Problem

One of the more difficult questions facing Supreme Court scholars is trying to decipher the impact of the litigants. Given the secrecy with which the Supreme Court conducts the majority of its business, any effort towards understanding the decision making process is inevitably met with frustration.  The most recent insight we have into any of…