The Chief Justice’s remarks to the Fourth Circuit
The Chief Justice participated today in the Fourth Circuit judicial conference. (The video from C-SPAN is at this link (he appears towards the end): http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/CourtChie.) His remarks were very well received.
For practitioners, I thought three points were most interesting. First, the Court plans to hold three oral arguments on some days earlier in the Term. The Court has already granted certiorari in more than forty cases for next Term, an unusually high number. Holding additional arguments earlier allows the Court to “front load” its work – effectively moving arguments up from the Spring to the Fall – so it can focus on writing opinions later in the Term.
Second, the Chief Justice acknowledged the difficulties created by the Court’s aggressive questioning. He said the Justices have discussed the issue. He highlighted the fact that the Justices do not discuss the cases ahead of time, so that the argument is their first opportunity to highlight points to their colleagues. (It might be worth the Court’s effort to experiment in a few cases with changing that practice, to see if the argument dynamic improves.)
Third, the Chief Justice recognized that the Justices’ relatively narrow professional backgrounds – all but Justice Kagan came from appellate judgeships and none held elected office – inevitably has some effect on its decision making. Without taking a position on whether it was good or bad, he raised the point that judicial experience may lead to decisions that focus on legal reasoning rather than broader public policy goals.