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FAQs: Opinion announcement days

We expect the Court to issue orders from last week’s Conference this morning at 9:30 a.m., followed by opinions in argued cases at 10 a.m.  We will be live blogging both sets of announcements, beginning at around 9:20.  We have put together a list of some of the commonly asked questions about opinion announcements that we have gotten during recent live blogs, along with our responses, but please let us know during the live blog if you have a question that you don’t see answered here.  

Question: What opinions will the Court issue today?

Answer: Unlike some other courts, the Court doesn’t announce in advance which cases will be decided on a particular day.  The only time we have a good sense is the very last day, when the Court issues its final rulings.

Question: What’s the last day the Court will issue opinions?

Answer: We don’t yet know when the last day – which is presumably when the same-sex marriage rulings will come down – will be.  Based on past practice, the most likely days are June 26 and 27.  But we can’t say for sure.

Question: What cases are still undecided?

Answer: The best place to look for a summary of where the Term stands is Kedar’s statistics page, available here:

In the fourth panel down, you can see the rate at which the Court has been issuing decisions.  It has more opinions to issue by the end of June than in any recent Term.  That’s not a big surprise, given that the Justices have more high-profile and divisive cases to resolve this Term than in any recent year.  The cases just take time to resolve.

Question: If a case is not decided by the end of the Term, will it be re-argued?

Answer: Ordinarily, yes, it will be ordered for re-argument during the next Term.  But it’s relatively rare for the Court to order re-argument, particularly if it hasn’t asked the lawyers in the case to address a new question.

Question: How likely is it that the affirmative action, voting rights, same-sex marriage, and gene patenting cases will all be decided the same day?

Answer: The Court releases opinions as they are ready.  (This includes the majority opinion and any concurring and dissenting opinions as well.)  It is unlikely that all five of these opinions will be ready at once. Conventional wisdom would hold that the cases which were argued earlier in the Term are more likely to be decided before the cases that were argued later in the Term. A list of the cases organized by sitting is here.  (Fisher v. University of Texas is currently the oldest undecided case.)

Question: Who announces “per curiam” opinions (that is, opinions without a named author)?

Answer: Per curiam opinions are typically issued with the order list and not otherwise announced.

Question: How does the Court decide the order in which opinions will be announced on a given day?

Answer: The Justices announce their opinions in order of reverse seniority, with the Chief Justice going last. So if Justice Kagan has an opinion to announce, she goes first, followed by Justice Sotomayor, Alito, Breyer, Ginsburg, etc.

Question: Who decides which Justice will write which opinion?

Answer:  Shortly after the oral argument, the Justices vote on a case.  The most senior Justice in the majority gets to assign who will write the opinion.  He (or she) can assign it to himself (or herself), or to a colleague whom he thinks will be able to hold the majority.

Recommended Citation: Amy Howe, FAQs: Opinion announcement days, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 10, 2013, 12:01 AM),