Shipan in WaPo, “The Supreme Court is taking far fewer cases than usual. Here’s why.”

June 3, 2016

Charles Shipan (with Kenneth W. Moffett and Forrest Maltzman) has penned a piece for The Washington Post Monkey Cage, “The Supreme Court is taking far fewer cases than usual. Here’s why.”

In it, Shipan and colleagues describe their joint research (with Karen Miranda), recently published in Justice System Journal, which suggests that the recent drop in the Supreme Court’s caseload can be attributed to uncertainty over the outcome of individual cases.

Their research supports the idea that, “When there are stable winning coalitions involving five or more members, justices vote to hear more cases. But when the court does not have a stable winning coalition, it takes fewer cases.”

“That’s where the court finds itself today: with an even ideological split,” they write.

“With only eight justices—divided between four liberals and four conservatives—the likelihood of one side winning is highly uncertain. So we should not be surprised that the court is taking fewer cases for next term, waiting until a new coalition settles down, presumably after a new justice is at last confirmed.” 

Charles R. Shipan is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Professor of Social Sciences; a professor of political science in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; and a professor of public policy at the Ford School. He is the author of Designing Judicial Review, co-author of Deliberate Discretion?, and has written numerous articles and book chapters on political institutions and public policy.