Week Ahead at SCOTUS: A Record Breaking Term

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The U.S. Supreme Court kicks off 2018 with a busy week consisting of noteworthy oral arguments, significant petitions, and … no opinions, again.

What Are You Waiting For: The news that the court won’t issue any additional opinions means that the court is set to break a nearly 150-year-old record—for being slow.

  • The court has only issued one opinion in an argued case so far this term.
  • That’s the slowest pace the court has released opinions since the 1800s, according to Adam Feldman of Empirical SCOTUS. In fact, “the last time the Court released its second orally argued decision in January of a year was during the 1868 term (the second opinion was issued on January 11, 1869),” Feldman says.

Back to Work: After just over a month on break, the courthouse opens for oral arguments on Jan. 8.

  • The court finally gets around to hearing a challenge to Ohio’s scheme for purging residents from its voter rolls (subscription required).
    • The case had originally been scheduled for November, but was taken off the calendar after the attorney set to argue the case had to take medical leave.
    • Now set for argument on Wednesday, the court will consider whether the state violated the National Voter Registration Act when it purged hundreds of thousands of residents from its rolls.
    • The case highlights the ongoing tension between protecting the integrity of the election process and ensuring easy access to voting.
  • The court will also consider not one, but two original jurisdiction
    • The court has only heard 10 of these rare cases since 2000, but will hear both Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado and Florida v. Georgia on Monday.
    • Original jurisdiction cases come to the court via a unique procedure and often feature state-versus-state showdowns. Learn more with this Cases and Controversies podcast.
    • Both cases involve water disputes between the states, including one that puts the justices to the choice of green-lighting an economic disaster in Florida or crippling the city of Atlanta.
  • The court sticks to a theme Tuesday as well, hearing two Fourth Amendment cases involving vehicles.
    • Byrd v. United States asks if the sole occupant of a rental car has an expectation of privacy even if they aren’t listed on the rental agreement (subscription required).
    • Collins v. Virginia examines the application of the “automobile exception” to the warrant requirement on private property (subscription required).

No New Relists: The justices themselves reconvened Jan. 5 for their private conference at which they considered which cases to take and which to turn away. We didn’t get any grants Friday, which isn’t a surprise given that there were no new relists. But we’re sure to get some denials when the court issues its order list on Jan. 8.  Here’s a few petitions we’re watching:

  • The Trump administration has asked the court undo a lower court opinion allowing an immigrant teen to get an abortion in Hargan v. Garza.
    • The government argues that releasing minors from immigration custody to get an abortion would make it complicit in the procedure.
    • The teen at the heart of the previous dispute already obtained an abortion, but the case continues as a class action challenging the Trump administration’s nationwide policy.
    • Now the government wants the slate cleared of the potentially bad precedent as it fights the class action.
  • The justices continue to consider Hidalgo v. Arizona which challenges the constitutionality of the death penalty. As requested, the court received the record from the court below. So we should be expecting something soon.
  • The Texas redistricting disputes are back for the justices’ consideration.