Friday, May 4, 2007

An Early Indicator on Two Important Cases

Though it seems likely that this Supreme Court term will be remembered as the Carhart II term, there are some other big cases looming out there. I did not expect Carhart to be such a sweeping opinion--but I have long expected two cases dealing with Equal Protection and public schools to make a splash.

There are really smart people who keep track of which Justices are writing opinions and how many opinions each Justice normally writes. By cross-checking those numbers with the rules that determine who gets to assign the opinions to the different justices

The Chief picks who writes if he's in the majority, otherwise the most senior Justice picks. Practically, this means that, in hotly-contested cases, either John Roberts or John Paul Stevens picks who writes the opinion. Those two seldom vote together on the big ones.

These really smart people who can do Supreme Court math think that Chief Justice Roberts is writing at least one of the opinions in those cases. If he is the author, look for a ruling that strikes down racial quotas and views Brown v. Board of Education as a case about desegregation, not a case about integration.

In an ideal world, knowing who was writing an opinion would not mean anything about the result.

Exhibit 4,864,257,906 that our world is not perfect.

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