This is the last part of my blog series How the Supreme Court Works. It is an interesting topic to share because it derives from readings I have done and even more so from memory (thanks to the professors at City Tech!) And even more of a pleasure for me to write about because my major requires me to know extensively about this and it is nice to publish information that can help those who are curious about how U.S Supreme Court makes it’s decisions. I have previously posted that the U.S Supreme Court can’t listen to all thousands petition of certioris but only a few. In this post I will write how they come to a conclusion, the aftermath, and how it impact us.
The justice writes the opinion for the court, produces and circulates a draft opinion to the other justices. Once the draft opinion has been reviewed, the remaining Justices recommend changes to the opinion.Votes are taken at a conference while opinions are still being circulated. However, justices too change their minds. A justice may be persuaded by the opinion or dissent, or after reflecting discussion on the points of law at issue.
A justice voting with the majority may write a concurring opinion; this is an opinion where the justice agrees with the majority holding, but where he or she wishes to express views on the legal elements of the case that are not included in the majority opinion. Justices who do not agree with the decision made by the majority may also submit dissenting opinions, which may give alternative legal viewpoints. Dissenting opinions don’t necessarily carry legal weight or precedent, but they can set the argument for future cases, which is VERY crucial.
Justices who were not seated at the time of oral arguments that were heard by the Supreme Court do not participate in the formulation of an opinion. Likewise, a justice leaving the Court prior to the handing down of an opinion does not take part in the Court’s opinion. If this occurs, justices will likely reschedule the case for rehearing.
Throughout the term the Court announces its opinions. The decision of the Court is subsequently published, first as a slip opinon, and then in the United States Reports. Throughout the case, the media has already broadcasted tons of footage and articles about the precedent and generally we follow. But once the Supreme Court rules, so do the States (ie. abortion laws, cruel and unusual punishment, segregation, gay marriage, obamacare etc.)