Posner and Landes: Justices Save the Big Rulings Until the End

The Justices Save the Big Rulings Until the End. Here's Why.

Examining 7,219 decisions issued by the Supreme Court between the 1946 and 2012 terms, the study found that, indeed, the highest-profile decisions take the court longer to decide and tend to issue in late June, whether or not they were argued late in the term.

The authors, who include Judge Richard Posner (left) of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, suggest that one reason for delay is that the justices have their reputations and legacies in mind when they write headline-making decisions. They may spend more time polishing major decisions — or having their clerks do so, since, as the authors state, "nowadays law clerks do most judicial writing even in the Supreme Court."


Besides Posner, the Duke article's authors are professors Lee Epstein of Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and William Landes of the University of Chicago Law School, both longtime court scholars.

At first blush, the high court's end-of-term crunch is so routine it might seem obvious. But it turns out not to be that simple, and the article offers intriguing data about the court's processes over many years and the tenures of five chief justices. For the past 70 years, the study shows, the court has consistently issued about one-third of its decisions in June, and half of the June decisions in the final week.

Read more at The National Law Journal