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Supreme Court Delay in Opinions Ties Two Other Postwar Terms

Posted Dec 8, 2009 8:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Today the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its first opinion following oral arguments this term, tying two other terms in the postwar era for the longest period without an opinion.

The Supreme Court has issued four per curiam summary reversals already, but it isn’t expected to issue an opinion on an argued case until today, according to SCOTUSblog and the Volokh Conspiracy. One of the opinions could come in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a challenge to restrictions on campaign spending by corporations, according to the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, Supreme Court litigator John Elwood says any opinion issued today will be the first argued decision since the term began 64 days ago. A Vinson & Elkins partner, Elwood checked Supreme Court terms going back to 1946, and only two others matched the period of days without an opinion—terms beginning in October 2007 and October 1984. “The slow start may portend significant dissents,” he writes.

In the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court is considering whether to strike down a federal law restricting corporate spending on issue ads before elections, according to the Wall Street Journal story. The nonprofit group Citizens United challenged the law after the Federal Election Commission banned its documentary criticizing Hillary Clinton from on-demand cable television.

After initial arguments in March, the Supreme Court ordered reargument on whether it should overrule past decisions upholding restrictions on corporate campaign spending. Nearly half the states have submitted an amicus brief that says a ruling striking down the federal restrictions on free-speech grounds could also imperil their state laws, the Wall Street Journal says.

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