Monday, June 21, 2004


The four relatively uneventful Supreme Court cases decided today (by Ginsburg, Thomas (2) and Kennedy) leave twelve to be decided this Term, with the Court coming back on Thursday of this week to issue more opinions.

The twelve cases (and the sittings in which they were argued) are the three terrorism-related cases (Apr.), Sosa (the Alien Tort Statute case) (Mar.), the Cheney Energy Task Force case (Apr.), a case involving the retroactive applicability of the Apprendi/Ring rule on habeas (Apr.), another case involving the retroactive applicability of a death-penalty sentencing rule on habeas (Feb.), this year's version of the Child Online Pornography Act (COPA) case (Feb.), two Miranda warnings cases (Dec.), a death penalty case involing mitigating evidence of mental illness (Mar.) and a case asking whether Apprendi applies to upward departures from statutory sentencing ranges that are in addition to the statutory maximun sentence (Mar.)

Everyone thinks that Thomas is writing both Miranda cases because he has no other decisions from the December sitting.

Breyer is the only Justice without an opinion in the February sitting, so he'll likely be writing one of the two (presumably the COPA case). The Chief and Stevens have already written twice in the sitting, so each is unlikely to be the author of the other one.

Souter is the only Justice without an opinion in the March sitting, but with three cases outstanding, and no Justice having yet written more than once in that sitting, it is impossible to even narrow down the range of authors for the highly anticipated Sosa opinion. As always, the action is in the extras!

April matches up nicely with five opinions, including the three terrorism cases, remaining for five Justices without opinions from the sitting -- the Chief, Stevens, O'Connor, Scalia and Kennedy. We would be surprised if Scalia wrote in Cheney after the trumped-up recusal controversy, but as one of the leading voice in the Court's Apprendi line, he may have drawn that one. In other words, there is still a lot of room for the three liberals of this group to do some real damage in the war on terror.


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