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Supreme Court Docket Dwindles

Today's issue of The New York Times has this article by Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court's dwindling docket (12/7/06). Greenhouse reports that despite Roberts' expressed intention during last year's confirmation hearing to increase the number of cases handled by the Supremes, "that has not happened." In fact,

The court has taken about 40 percent fewer cases so far this term than last. It now faces noticeable gaps in its calendar for late winter and early spring. The December shortfall is the result of a pipeline empty of cases granted last term and carried over to this one.  The number of cases the court decided with signed opinions last term, 69, was the lowest since 1953 and fewer than half the number the court was deciding as recently as the mid-1980s. And aside from the school integration and global warming cases the court heard last week, along with the terrorism-related cases it has decided in the last few years, relatively few of the cases it is deciding speak to the core of the country’s concerns.

The article offers a number of reasons for the decline. These include the federal government's increased success in lower courts, giving it less reason to appeal, and a Congress that enacts fewer laws, giving the Court fewer statutes to interpret. (If the latter is a reason, that may soon change when Congress goes to work five days a week). 

But don't get the impression that legal conflicts no longer exist. Tom Goldstein, who's quoted in the article, opines that "I don’t think we’re at the end of history and have fixed all the problems."

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on December 7, 2006 at 07:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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