This article appeared in the June 27, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/27 edition

Why Supreme Court leaves big cases until the very end

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
News agency interns sprint across the plaza at the Supreme Court with copies of the justices’ final decisions of the term in Washington June 27. The final day brought key decisions on partisan gerrymandering and the 2020 census.

Welcome to your Daily. Today we look at high court rulings on partisan gerrymandering and citizenship as a census question, the guardrails of friendship between the leaders of the U.S. and Japan, the explosion of interest in women’s soccer in France, and the best movies of the month.

First, it’s late June. And, yes, that means it’s time once again for Washington journalism’s version of a barn raising: covering the last days of the term of the Supreme Court.

That can be a project that needs many hands. The work isn’t erecting heavy beams but deciphering and writing about the numerous big cases the court typically issues just prior to fleeing for summer vacation.

Increasingly justices leave their biggest decisions to last. Why? They don’t really say. But the most divisive cases often take the longest to resolve among the justices. There may be more writing, of both majority opinions and dissents. Decisions can be splintered with numerous points of view pro and con. The nine may have more difficulty putting together five votes for a majority outcome.

Case in point: today’s decision on possibly including a question about citizenship on the 2020 census. The Supreme Court said it would be OK to have such a question, but sent the case back to a lower court because five justices agreed they did not believe the Commerce Department’s stated reason for including it. Some justices affirmed some parts of this decision, but not others. Other justices dissented, but in different ways. (See our story, below.)

The decision that partisan gerrymandering is constitutional was fraught as well. You could almost feel arguments coming through the pages of the opinion, and dissent.

It takes more than one person to handle this on deadline as we search to explain the values and motivations behind some of the most consequential pronouncements of Washington’s entire year.

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This article appeared in the June 27, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/27 edition