On Monday the Supreme Court issued five decisions in argued cases, bringing its total number of opinions so far this term to 28. As Adam Feldman has reported at SCOTUSblog, the justices are moving slowly this term by just about any measure: At this point in 2008, they had already released 50(!) opinions, and they still have more than half of their opinions left to release.
The five decisions released yesterday were argued in December (Murphy v. NCAA), January (Byrd v. United States and McCoy v. Louisiana), and February (Dahda v. United States), so they didn’t shed a lot of new light on which justice might be writing which opinion.
Here’s what we do know:
The only cases left from October are Epic Systems v. Lewis (arbitration) and Gill v. Whitford (redistricting). Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch have not yet written opinions from this sitting. Either way, that bodes well for the employers in Epic.
All of the opinions from the November sitting have been released. It was a light sitting by any standard, with only six decisions, which means that three justices – Roberts, Gorsuch, and Justice Anthony Kennedy – did not write at all. Gorsuch has already picked up an extra case in December, for which he wrote two opinions (SAS Institute v. Iancu and Murphy v. Smith); this likely means that Roberts and Kennedy will pick up extra opinions in April, which had 12 cases.
There are two cases outstanding from the court’s December sitting, and (like October) they are both big ones: Carpenter v. United States (cellphone records) and Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission (same-sex wedding cakes). Neither Roberts nor Kennedy has written yet for December, which makes for interesting possibilities. Four years ago, Roberts wrote for the court in Riley v. California, holding that police generally must get a warrant to search the digital information on the cellphone of someone who has been arrested, and he seemed more sympathetic to Carpenter than the government at the oral argument last year; if Roberts is instead writing in Masterpiece, it would seem to bode well for the baker.
Once we get past December, it’s very hard to make any predictions. There are still four opinions left for January, and Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan all have yet to write.
We should know more definitively by the end of this week, but the justices will almost certainly release more opinions on Monday. Maybe we’ll finally get one of the big ones from the fall; even if we only get one “blockbuster,” it should still tell us more about who’s writing the other ones.