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Saturday, May 13, 2006 

The Clock is Ticking

The AP has an article about the looming deadline for this term at the Supreme Court. Here's the situation...
With a late June deadline looming, the high court has yet to issue opinions in about 35 cases in which justices have heard arguments. At this point a year ago, the court had the same number of cases pending, a sign the justices' pace has changed little with the arrival of Roberts, who succeeded the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice.
Well, 35 to go with a month and a half is not bad. I don't think it's surprising that Chief Justice Roberts hasn't amped up the pace of the Court. He's professed a willingness to increase the caseload of the Court. Perhaps next term will be different. Roberts will be more settled in and familiar with his job. Maybe he can get the Court moving faster, possibly pushing some of the older Justices out the door. Is that too malicious?

The article finishes with this...
Generally, the most contentious cases of the year are decided in the final weeks, usually on 5-4 votes. Also historically, justices announce retirements at the end of their term.
We will see more close cases in the last few weeks. Much of the unanimity that we've seen from the Roberts Court is going to end as the term ends. That's usual and understandable. It's easier to get an opinion written and agreed on by everyone when the case isn't tough. The controversial areas require more drafts of the opinions to be circulated among the Justices, more discussion and persuasion, and usually a changed vote or two. Also, remember that Justice O'Connor announced her retirement on July 1st of last year. If a retirement comes, I would expect the timing to be very similar.

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