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Wed Oct 28, 2020, 10:42 AM

SCOTUSblog Symposium: Shining a light on the shadow docket

James Romoser Editor

Posted Thu, October 22nd, 2020 12:15 pm

Symposium: Shining a light on the shadow docket

This article is the first entry in a symposium on the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket.”

Near the end of two meandering days of questions at last week’s Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked a question that probably has never been asked at any other Supreme Court nomination hearing.

“Are you aware of the Supreme Court’s – as it’s called – shadow docket?” he asked. ... Barrett, who clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, said she was. “The shadow docket has become a hot topic in the last couple of years,” she added.

Barrett is right. In fact, in just the last few months, the court has issued emergency rulings on coronavirus policies, immigration restrictions, capital punishment, access to abortion, the U.S. census and procedures for the upcoming election. All of those rulings have been part of the court’s shadow docket.

The court itself would never use that term. Law professor William Baude coined it in 2015 to refer unofficially to the body of orders issued by the Supreme Court outside the formal opinions in the 70 or so cases in which it hears oral argument each term. Some of those orders are peripheral and procedural. But others resolve, at least temporarily, contentious policy disputes or matters of life and death. And this year, the shadow docket is taking on more significance – and getting more attention – than it ever has before.

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Recommended Citation: James Romoser, Symposium: Shining a light on the shadow docket, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 22, 2020, 12:15 PM), https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/10/symposium-shining-a-light-on-the-shadow-docket/

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