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Empty Supreme Court chamber reflects drop in accepted cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard no oral arguments Wednesday despite it being a scheduled argument day, an unusual development reflecting a gap in its docket caused by a decrease in the number of cases it chooses to hear [SCOTUSblog report]. Compared to last year, the Court has accepted 40 percent fewer cases, and will likely face more docket gaps over the course of the term. Observers attribute the empty docket to a combination of reasons, including the fact that the federal government has been winning more cases in the lower courts and Congress has recently enacted fewer statutes for the high court to interpret.

A third theory is that the Court is sharply divided on ideological grounds, and some justices vote against hearing a case that they know will not be decided on their terms. This theory has been discounted because only a small proportion of the 8,000 appeals filed with the Supreme Court raise ideological questions. The Court recently heard arguments in race-conscious school placement policies and global warming, and granted certiorari in two First Amendment cases [JURIST reports]. The New York Times has more.

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