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December 24, 2019

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Supreme Court Delays

December 24, 2019

 

 

            I write to complain about delays in issuing Supreme Court decisions.

            Just this past week, the Court issued slip opinions in two cases argued in January 2019. And that is faster than other recent decisions. For the month of December 2019 (through December 24), excluding companion cases the Court issued 8 opinions, 2 argued in October 2018, 2 argued in December 2018, 2 argued in January 2019, 1 argued in March 2019, and 1, a primary vote case, argued the day before the election in November 2019. The Court issued 9 opinions in November 2019, 4 argued in 2018. The Court issued 8 opinions in October 2019, 3 argued in 2018. And in September 2019, the Court issued 8 opinions, 4 argued in 2018.

            The Court is taking an average of 10–11 months from the time the case is orally argued to the time it releases the decision. This is an extraordinary length of time to await a decision. And this is the time for the average appeal. I certainly understand that there are complex and controversial decisions that will take considerable time to decide, such as the three recent decisions about crumbling home foundations in eastern Connecticut. But are there no decisions that can be decided in a few months? Here it is the end of December 2019 and not one decision among the 15 cases argued in September 2019 has yet been issued.

            I do not go so far as to say justice delayed is justice denied, but I do go so far as to say justice delayed may be justice denied. So what can be done? Perhaps issuing all advance opinions without headnotes would save some time. And perhaps advance opinions should not have to be so perfectly proofread. And why do the facts and procedural posture have to be so extensively reported, especially if a trial or appellate decision does a good job of it? I certainly do not want the quality of the decisions to suffer, but why are they so much longer than they were in the 1990’s? Just some thoughts for the justices to consider in speeding up their decisions without sacrificing quality.

 

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