Tomorrow, at 10am EST, we may learn what the future holds for same-sex couples in 13 states that ban gay marriage, millions of Americans on Obamacare, and men on death row awaiting executions in 31 states that allow capital punishment. And these are only three of the twenty cases from this term with decisions that have yet to be announced in the final weeks before the Court adjourns until October. It’s gonna be a busy week at the Supreme Court.
According to the Court’s website, if they don’t announce decisions on those three cases tomorrow, there are four more days left this month for it to happen. This many cases left is peculiar, especially for this time of year. It’s atypical for the Court to deliver five decisions a day, which they’d have to do if they were to disburse the decisions equitably each day. I’ve found that hearing more than four in one day was a heavy volume. Two or three is more common and, worth mentioning, appreciated by those of us inside relegated to pen, paper, and bad handwriting. Conversely, last Monday’s non-conference day yielded only one decision about the president’s “exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign,” in Zivotofsky v. Kerry.
As inclined as we are to find such cases about healthcare, death penalties, and marriage relatable in that they raise questions that hit close to home, they’re also all extremely technical and require decisions written with expert tailoring and efficiency. Our impatience and the fact that great hues and cries will promulgate the air waves after the decisions matter very little to the justices, who know every word they use to interpret the laws live on a “millennia,” to use a word belabored during the same-sex marriage oral arguments. This takes time.
Crafting drafts of decisions for some cases may still be in the final stages, which could be why we only got one decision last week and why so many decisions linger. There are also multiple dissents to write and concurrences, or decisions written by some justices when they agree with the majority but on different legal grounds. Given the nature of the cases this term, you can bet there will be concurrences, some of which may sound more like a dissent than an agreement. Frequent concurrence author Justice Scalia, who penned 24% of the concurrences written last term, has been known to do this.
One thing’s for sure, twenty cases in four days will make for an frenetic conclusion to the term. It’s also likely more days will be added to the Court’s scheduled, as has been the case in the last few years. According to the Court’s calendar, another day has already been added this week, Thursday, for decisions. If you’re a court watcher anxiously awaiting decisions, let this be a heads up to keep your eyes on the #SCOTUS Twitter hashtag, which will be updated with last minute changes to the Court’s calendar faster than the Court’s website. Make Hootsuite, Spredfast, or Sprout Social your new favorite social network management platform to organize Supreme Court news into a simple stream so you can exclusively follow #SCOTUS news via the hashtag. I’ll be in D.C. starting Tuesday and promise to help keep the interwebs and Twittersphere up to date with the latest news as we come to a thrilling close this term.