Saturday, June 4, 2022

In Context: Supreme Court Damage Showing

Normally, this weekly update is about Congress, those elected to the Legislative Branch and their actions in their elected capacity. There's also no question that each Branch also affects the other. This time of year, as the Supreme Court approaches the normal end of its ~9-month term in June, its decisions usually come more frequently, appear in national news headlines, and redirect policymaking conversations in Washington.

The Court usually takes about 60 cases per annual term, hears oral arguments from September through April, and then has about half of those cases remaining to decide during the remaining 2+ months of its term. This year, as of 5/1, the Court was already 4 cases behind its opinion-issuing pace from the two prior years.

Since the leak of the Alito draft opinion in the Dobbs abortion case a month ago, it has issued only 4 opinions, and none since 5/23. For post-6/1-issued opinions, the Court is now about 10 cases behind pace from the two prior years. That's now upwards of a 50 percent increase in its amount of work remaining.

The contentiousness of the legal issues in the Dobbs case may have already been slowing the Court down before the leak (the case was heard in December and Alito's draft was from February), and it may have dramatically slowed down internal deliberations since then. In the Court's press release acknowledging the leak, Chief Justice Roberts claimed, “The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.” Nonetheless, trust was damaged.

The conclusion of oral arguments marks the beginning of peak season for the Court to be transferring opinion drafts back and forth among the justices and their clerks. Court watchers could already infer plenty of draft circulation from prior opinions, and now the Court overtly acknowledged the practice in that press release: “Justices circulate draft opinions internally as a routine and essential part of the Court’s confidential deliberative work.”

While we trust the quality of the Court's work “will not be affected in any way,” the pace of such work is less sure. The Supreme Court has returned to being tight-lipped about its internal deliberations, but its decelerated pace of action shows damage inside the Court. This Court was already on pace for this year's opinions to take well into July under normal circumstances. With increased security imposed on internal deliberations, an ongoing investigation into the leak, and aggressive protests planned, it would not be out of the question for the Court's final conclusion of this term to take into August. The longer this Court takes to finish this term the more the damage will be evident.

That the more controversial cases take longer and are released closer to the end of the term could also be due to the intensity of internal debate and struggle over the outcome. While we would prefer the Alito opinion become official sooner than later, it's not hard to see how any justice could delay the release of the final opinion.

The Court has designated Monday, 6/6/2022, as its next opinion issuance day. We trust the more it can stay on pace, the more the Lord brought healing to the Court.

Father, we have much about the Court to bring before you. We ask that You:
  • restore rightful trust among the justices and their clerks,
  • reveal the source of the leak so it can be rooted out,
  • put in place additional steps and security (digital and analog) to make any future leaks easier to trace,
  • bring healing to the Court (justices, clerks, staff, operations),
  • protect the draft Alito opinion in the Dobbs case, and bring about a right and just opinion for the unborn and all affected by state laws intended to protect human life,
  • work in the hearts of justices and clerks working on dissents against Your Will in that case,
  • may there be clear and convincing answers against any opposition to legally protecting human life,
  • protect the work You're doing in the many cases remaining for the Court, not to be rushed or dismissed, but handled thoroughly as you would intend and as the Court would normally be able to do,
  • work in the hearts of the American people to accept Your Will and the outcomes in this year's cases that You want to bring from this Court,
  • make it clear that these are Your works and use them to turn the heart's of people toward You in all aspects of their lives.
Father, we thank You for the work You've already done, for the good decisions you've already established, even in these requests, and we thank You for Your love for us including in giving us a part in this significant and important work You're doing in our lives and in the life of the United States of America.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)

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