Eight observations from the 2013 Term.

  1.  Justice Kennedy is the most influential (or influenced?) Justice.
    • He was in the majority in 95% of cases this term.
    • He was in the majority in all cases decided by a 5-4 margin.
    • He and Chief Justice Roberts were in full agreement 84% of the time.
      • By comparison, only Justice Kagan was in full agreement with the Chief Justice more than 75% of the time.
  1. Justice Scalia is an engaged jurist.
    • He asked more questions than any other Justice at oral argument 36% of the time and was one of the top three questioners 69% of the time.
      • He asked an average of 19.6 questions per oral argument.
        • Justice Thomas did not ask a single question for the eighth straight term.
      • Justice Scalia once again authored more opinions this year (23) than any of his colleagues.
  1. Pedigree matters.
    • 33% of oral argument advocates were from the Office of the Solicitor General while 47% had experience in that office.
    • Attorneys from Harvard Law School made 38 appearances – more than any other law school (Yale was second with 30 appearances).
    • Justice Scalia’s former clerks made more appearances (17) than the former clerks of any other Justice.
      • Of note: Thomas C. Goldstein of Goldstein & Russell, PC argued in three cases this term, despite not attending an Ivy League law school, clerking for a Supreme Court Justice, or working previously in the Office of the Solicitor General.

  1. If you’re seeking a cert. worthy case, file a paid petition in a civil case, seeking writ from the U.S. Court of Appeals, and aim for a grant out of conference in the last week of June.
    • Paid cases comprised 86% of the Court’s merits docket.
    • 88% of cases decided this term arose from the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
    • Civil cases comprised 71% of the merits docket.
    • 12 petitions were granted in the last week of June alone; more than any month except October (which also had 12 grants).
  1. The Court is united.
    • 66% of this term’s opinions were released with a 9-0 vote.
      • This is up from 33% in 2008, 48% in 2010, and 49% in 2012.
  1. Work between the Justices was distributed evenly.
    • All Justices had either seven or eight majority opinions, which contrasts with previous terms like 2011 when one Justice had nine majority opinions, another had six, and most others had seven.
  1. Total authorship is down.
    • The Justices collectively authored the fewest total opinions during the Roberts Court era. The Justices authored only 145 total opinions (majority, concurring, and dissenting), lower than their tally from last term (169) or the term before (161).
      • The Justices decided 73 cases this term.
        • 67 were opinions signed after oral argument.
        • 6 were cases summarily reversed without opinion.
  1. Not all circuits are created equal. 
    • The Court affirmed 75% of 7th Circuit cases at the merits stage.
      • The Court only affirmed 27% of all cases this term.
    • The Court reversed 100% of cases that arose from the 3rd and 8th Circuits.

This information was compiled from: Kedar S. Bhatia, Stat Pack for October Term 2013, SCOTUSBLOG (July 3, 2014) and is available in full, here.