This blockbuster week of Supreme Court decisions brought us two particular rulings of note. In her blog post, ISCOTUS Director and Chicago-Kent College of Law Professor Carolyn Shapiro examines the opinions in cases with a similar result of less federal oversight, but opposite ideological majorities of Justices.
As we all wait for decisions in this Term’s major cases, people may wonder what is taking so long and why the big cases are so often the last cases to be announced. The short answer is that the big cases are also those in which there is most likely to be fairly strong disagreement among the justices, meaning that there are likely to be multiple opinions — and when that happens, the process can take some time. Here’s a quick primer on what happens:
This morning, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 opinion, with a scathing dissent from Justice Scalia. But the case, Maryland v. King, is not one of the big marquee cases of this Term, nor was the line-up predictable. Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy held that the Fourth Amendment allows a state to take a DNA sample using a cheek swab from all individuals arrested for serious crimes. He was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and by Justices Alito, Breyer, and Thomas. Justice Scalia, who dissented orally this morning after Justice Kennedy announced the opinion, was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor.
The difference in the line-up today and in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders is interesting. In that case, in which the Court upheld the routine strip search of non-violent arrestees (at least under some circumstances), Justice Scalia was in the majority upholding a state practice against a Fourth Amendment challenge, while Justice Breyer was the scathing dissenter. All the other votes tracked today’s case.