Supreme Court Faces Scrutiny Over Slow Pace of Rulings This Term

Supreme Court Faces Scrutiny Over Slow Pace of Rulings This Term

This term, the Supreme Court has faced a firestorm of scrutiny on multiple fronts due to the slow pace at which rulings have been issued. As of May 1, the court has disposed of just 15 cases, which is lower than at any time in the last 100 years. However, the court hears oral arguments in substantially fewer cases now than it did in previous decades. In the 1922-23 term, the court heard 205 cases, while this term it was only 59.

Major Cases Yet to be Decided

All of the court’s major cases are yet to be decided, including President Joe Biden’s plan to forgive student loan debt, affirmative action in college admissions, voting rights, and the question of whether owners of creative businesses can refuse to work on same-sex weddings. Important cases are also pending on environmental, Native American, and immigration issues. The number of rulings so far this term is lower than it was on the same day in the most recent terms, which also lagged behind the norm.

Challenges to Finishing in Time

The justices have 44 cases to decide in the next few weeks before the traditional hard stop at the end of June. However, the slow pace of decision-making could lead to shorter rulings, fewer separate concurring or dissenting opinions, or even narrower decisions in which the court avoids broad pronouncements on the law. The court faces a challenge to finish in time in part because the justices are often divided and rulings are often held up as a result. It is possible the court could sidestep some big rulings, but it is also likely that there will be a flurry of blockbuster decisions in June.


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