The Volokh Conspiracy
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Thursday Is The New Monday At SCOTUS
Historically, the Court issued opinions on Mondays after oral arguments concluded. But this Term, Thursday is the big day.
In the past, the Supreme Court followed a careful rhythm. You could predict, with a degree of certainty, when orders would drop and when opinions would be released. When oral arguments were scheduled, the Court would release orders on Monday, and opinions on Tuesday. As March turned to April, the Court would begin releasing opinions on Tuesday as well as Wednesday. However, in May, when oral arguments concluded, the Court would issue both opinions and orders on Mondays. That practice would continue until mid-June, when the Court would start issuing opinions on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and on rare occasions, Fridays. You could set your watch to that timeline. Indeed, I would try to avoid air travel in June on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings.
The pandemic changed many things around, but the Monday handdown tradition continued, at least through May 2022. But this term, the Court seems to be experimenting. Oral argument concluded on April 26, 2023. And over the past two weeks, the Court has not reverted to the Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday hand-down. Rather, the Court is cramming all of the opinions on Thursdays. Indeed, the Court handed down four opinions on Thursday, May 11, and six opinions on Thursday, May 18. This seems to be the new practice.
Jacob Berlove, who was the champion of the inaugural season of FantasySCOTUS, flagged this issue on the SCOTUSBlog live-blog:
Why is the Court announcing decisions on Thursdays instead of Mondays? Pre-Covid, Monday was the day once arguments ended until they moved to multiple decision days.
I much prefer trickling out a few opinions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That timeline gives me more time to read and digest the decisions. But now I have to read six opinions totaling about 170 pages, in a single day. If nothing else, the press will have a harder time covering this much content at once. We are used to this torrent the last week in June, but not throughout May. On balance, the Court should go back to its old tradition. Unless making it harder for the press to cover cases is a feature, rather than a bug.