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The Supreme Court Is Hiding Important Decisions From You

Politico: “As the Supreme Court begins to release its written opinions from its most recent term, much of the public’s attention is focused on high-profile cases on affirmative action, election law and environmental regulation. But according to Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas Law School, this narrow focus on the most headline-grabbing decisions overlooks a more troubling change in the High Court’s behavior: The justices are conducting more and more of the court’s most important business out of the public eye, through a procedural mechanism known as “the shadow docket.” Quantitatively speaking, cases arising from the shadow docket — which include everything apart from the court’s annual average of 60 to 70 signed decisions — have long made up a majority of the justices’ work. But as Vladeck documents in his new book, The Shadow Docket, published this week, the court’s use of the shadow docket changed dramatically during the Trump years, when the court’s conservative majority used a flurry of emergency orders — unsigned, unexplained and frequently released in the middle of the night — to greenlight some of the Trump administration’s most controversial policies…

…The shift in the justices’ use of the shadow docket adds line of critique in the ongoing debate over the court’s legitimacy, which has raged in recent weeks thanks to new revelations about a conservative justice’s previously undisclosed relationship with wealthy Republican donor. For Vladeck, it isn’t a coincidence that concerns about the shadow docket are arising at the same time as concerns over the court’s ethics. “They are both symptoms of an unaccountable court,” Vladeck said. “It’s emblematic of the deeper problem, which is the court’s notion that Our docket is up to us, our ethics are up to us, our decision-making is up to us.

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