The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Supreme Court

SCOTUS in Fall 2022: Longer Arguments, Fewer Opinions

The Supreme Court's oral arguments have become significantly longer, but the Court has yet to issue an opinion on the merits so far this term.


2022 will come to a close without the Supreme Court issuing a single opinion in an argued case during October Term 2022. Nor has the Court issued a per curiam merits opinion. This is unusual, particularly considering the (relatively) small size of the Court's docket.

While the Supreme Court does not usually issue many Fall opinions, it typically issues a few opinions in argued cases, along with the occasional merits opinion in a case summarily reversing the opinion below. The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was often the first justice to issue an opinion in an argued case each term, but she was rarely alone in getting an opinion out the door before the New Year.

While the justices may not be writing much yet (other than in opinions related to orders) they are certanly talking. The Court's oral arguments have become substnatially longer this term, owing in part to the new format in which traditional, free-for-all argument is supplemented by seriatim questioning by the justices.

Over at SCOTUSBlog, Jake S. Truscott and Adam Feldman examine the 27 oral arguments the Court has held thus far this term and find that arguments are longer, the justices are speaking more, and the Court's newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, is speaking most of all (and it is not particularly close).

In the first three months of the 2022-23 term, the Supreme Court's newest member, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was by far the most active participant in oral arguments, according to an analysis of the written transcripts for the 27 cases the court has heard so far.

Jackson has spoken, on average, nearly 1,350 words per argument. The court's next most-talkative members — Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch, in that order — each have spoken, on average, between 800 and 900 words per argument. . . .

Truscott and Feldman also find that Justice Jackson does not speak more often than her colleagues. Rather, when she speaks she tends to speak longer.

Whether these trends will continue into the spring is anyone's guess. Presumably we will start to get opinions in January. I doubt, however, we will see significantly shorter arguments, particularly given some of the difficult and high profile questions on the Court's docket in the coming months.