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Saturday, June 03, 2006 

Cert Logjam

The Supreme Court has been behind pace at accepting new cases for argument next term. The legal buzzword for the Court accepting a case is "granting cert", for those of you playing along at home. Here's how the AP puts it...
Chief Justice John Roberts said last fall he would like to see the Supreme Court take up more cases. So far, however, his arrival has had the opposite effect.

Justices are running well behind in filling their argument calendar for the term that begins in the fall. They have accepted 18 cases, compared with 27 by this time last year and 32 in 2004.
Cut them a little slack. Keep in mind that the Rehnquist Court operated for over a decade with the same nine Justices. When you throw in two new Justices, including a new Chief, it's probably going to slow things down a bit. The Court will likely be hemorrhaging opinions in the next few weeks. Hopefully once those cases come down, the clerks will get the cert machine working again.

The article mentions Court prognosticators who try to get a feel for the new Court based on what cases they accept. I've never really put much stock in this. I doubt Roberts and Alito will have strange, new standards for what cases they want to hear. They'll probably grant cert when there is a conflict among the circuits about an issue or when the legal issue is fairly interesting. The real interesting stuff happens when you look at how the Court actually deals with the cases. We'll see if the Chief's planned consensus model actually works.

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