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April 2, 2012

Is it just me, or are this Term's SCOTUS opinions notably (and usefully) shorter?

The question in this title of this post is prompted by my pleasant discovery that both criminal justice opinions handed down by the Supreme Court this morning (basics here) were significantly shorter than I had expected them to be given how long they took to come out.  (Rehberg was argued November 1, 2011; Florence way back on October 12.)   Similarly, I was pleasantly surprised with the relative brevity of the Court's pronouncements (and the dissent's complaints) in the huge Sixth Amendment rulings of Frye and Lafler a few weeks ago (discussed here and here and here).

Because I do not read all of the opinions handed down by SCOTUS, nor do I keep systematic track of opinion authorship and word-count, I may be way off base in concluding that brevity is now becoming the soul of SCOTUS wit.  Still, it would make lots of sense that in a Term so full of so many big cases requiring lots of reading and preparation (and internal discussion?) that there is precious little time and energy left for writing very long opinions.  Moreover, in addition to just wondering aloud on this front, I also wonder if others share my sense that any move to shorter (and fewer) SCOTUS opinions is a change generally for the better. 

April 2, 2012 at 03:48 PM | Permalink


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Perhaps shorter opinions reflect how little there is of the reasoning upon which there is a consensus and a great focus on outcomes rather than reasoning in an era where the court doesn't take its own precedents very seriously.

Posted by: ohwilleke | Apr 2, 2012 7:23:32 PM

was thinking the same thing

Doesn't take many words to say!

Screw YOU!

Posted by: rodsmith | Apr 3, 2012 1:23:37 AM

There has always been reasoning, but not always so impartial and constitutional as we would it to be:

[Roe v. Wade decision]
"It's a step that had to be taken as we go down the road toward the full emancipation of women."—Justice H. Blackmun, 4/6/94

Posted by: Adamakis | Apr 3, 2012 9:32:40 AM

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