Undecided cases

Are you considering attending the announcement of decisions?  It is a fun thing to witness–the Justice who authored the majority opinion announces the decision and speaks for a few minutes about the reasoning.  Often, a dissenter will speak as well, and sometimes you’ll hear from an author of a concurring opinion.

Now that the Court is no longer hearing oral arguments, all announcements happen on designated “non-argument days”–typically Mondays, but the Court has just added an additional non-argument day for this Thursday, June 18. In recent years, only the most high-profile cases remained for the last one or two such days, so you could be sure to hear something interesting.  After this morning’s announcements, however, only three non-argument days remain (unless they add a second day next week, too) before the summer recess is scheduled to begin, yet there are still some 17 cases unresolved.  Also, Mary Bonauto was in the courtroom today; I have no clue if she thinks a decision is imminent in her marriage equality case, if she’s just going to attend all remaining announcement days, or if there was some other reason…

It’s impossible to know on which day the decision in any specific case will be announced.  But notably, only two cases argued in January remain undecided, and both are significant:  Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project involves disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act and Reed v. Town of Gilbert involves a 1st Amendment challenge to an ordinance that treats some signs differently from others, depending on content and purpose. Note, though, that the fact that these are the oldest undecided cases doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be decided soon (after all, later-argued cases were announced this morning).

Of course, everyone is eagerly awaiting the decision in Obergefell, which should resolve the Constitutional status of same-sex marriage.  That was argued on the second to last day of the argument calendar (April 28), and a significant death penalty case, Glossip v. Gross, was argued last.  Again, the timing of the arguments doesn’t necessarily mean these decisions will be announced last. There is also the Affordable Care Act case, King v. Burwell, which was argued back on March 4.

Other unresolved cases that are not receiving as much attention but are quite significant include:

  • Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission — asking whether states may appoint non-elected bodies to draw congressional districts, despite the phrase “by the legislature” in the Constitution’s elections clause (Art. I, § 4).
  • Ohio v. Clark — involving confrontation of witnesses in child abuse cases;
  • Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans — involving the confederate flag on state license plates;
  • National Mining Association v. EPA and Utility Regulatory Group v. EPA — both challenging EPA regulations of electric utilities; and
  • Brumfield v. Cain — involving mentally disabled defendants.

So by my estimation, 11 of the 17 remaining cases should be especially interesting ones to hear announced in person.  That’s pretty decent odds, if you’re thinking about attending.  Announcement days are also much easier to witness in person—no lining up overnight, as people did for the arguments.  I’d recommend getting there by 8:00 for the public line. If you can’t make it to the Court, scotusblog has been “live blogging” the announcements.  (No computers are allowed in the courtroom, but scotusblog sets up in the cafeteria just downstairs and gets the written decision as soon as the Justice begins speaking and, I think, reports from runners from the press section.  Logging in is of course not as fun as being there, but is the fastest way to get the info and it can have the feel of an event.)