Posted Tue, Jul 7, 2020 6:49 pm by Stephen Wermiel
By law, the Supreme Court's term begins on the first Monday in October. According to custom, the judges finish their work at the end of June (although the term ends technically only at the beginning of the next term). When judges make decisions in July, it is very popular in Washington and among court watchers everywhere.
This year's statements on the July statement are all the more remarkable since the court's decisions went beyond the end of June for the first time since July 1, 1996. The last time was July 3, 1988.
However, our memories are short. During Chief Justice Warren Burger's (1969-1986) tenure, it was common for the terms to be so late. In fact, in 1976 and every year from 1978 to 1986, the court issued rulings in the first week of July. The announcement of the decision even went beyond the public holidays of July 4, 1976, 1983, 1984 and 1986.
It is important to remember that most of the cases left by the court until July of this year were not discussed until May in the forced phone closings of the building enforced by the judges after the COVID-19 pandemic. Deciding on a case in early July, which was only discussed in May, is a quick turnaround, considering that complex or controversial cases discussed in October often remain undecided until June.
However, this term should result in approximately 60 rulings in litigation that are below the Roberts Court average as the pandemic postponed 10 cases for the next term. When the burger court slipped into July, the judges ruled up to 150 cases in one term, more than twice the judges today.
The plans of individual judges have sometimes played an important role in planning. For much of the 1960s and 70s, Justice William Brennan spent his summers on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. To take a car to Nantucket like Brennan, a ferry reservation must be made shortly after the New Year. It was found in court that if you wanted to find out when the term ended, all you had to do was find out the date of Brennan's ferry reservation.
Brennan did not go to Nantucket after the summer of 1981. When William Rehnquist became chief judge in 1986, a new calendar incentive came into play. Rehnquist had a summer house in Greensboro, Vermont, and the yard was known to want to get there as early as possible in the summer.
The data discussed so far relate to regular court plans. From time to time there were special court sessions in the summer that went far beyond the break dates from June / early July. For example, the court issued rulings on July 24 and 25, 1974. On July 24, US judges ruled Nixon 8-0 and ordered President Richard Nixon to hand tapes and other materials to the US District Court for the District of Columbia. The decision led to Nixon's resignation on August 8.
The next day, the Milliken court ruled 5: 4 against Bradley that a court-ordered plan to end segregation for the public schools in Detroit could not include the surrounding school districts. The case was discussed in February, but it wasn't decided until July 25th. The term before the special session ended on June 26.
The court also had a special session on September 9, 2009, to hear the realignment in Citizens United against the Federal Election Commission, discussed for the first time on March 24, 2009. The decision was made in January 2010. The September special argument probably gave the court more time to rule on the cases.
Before the current term, the last regular date for submitting comments in the past 60 years was July 7, 1986. There was no particular reason that the term ran so late this year. It was just a matter of workload. The court issued full written decisions in 146 disputes within this time limit. In two more years, 1976 and 1983, the court lasted until July 6th.
It seems that since the pandemic has affected so many things in the world around us, the court will also set a new record date in July for commenting on its regular arguments.
SCOTUS for law students: decide in July
SCOTUSblog (July 7, 2020, 6:49 p.m.),