Oral Argument Calendar for October: Effects on “Madison v. Alabama?”

The Supreme Court released its calendar for Oral Arguments for its October Sitting today. Ten cases were set for Oral Argument. Of great importance to us here at SCOTUS Predictions is the latter case on Tuesday, October 2: Madison v. AlabamaMadison is on our shortlist of cases for selection, so if Madison were to be the case selected for our review, it will not be a tremendously long wait until we release our opinion.

Given that our entire mission is to select a case on the Court’s next term and issue an opinion before the Court does, we must be diligent in ensuring that we are not still authoring our opinion when the Court releases theirs for the selected case. As any Court-watcher knows, the public does not know when the Court will release its opinion for each argued case. However, in a report authored by Kedar Bhatia at SCOTUSBlog, the public can get a rough estimate of the span of time between each case’s Oral Argument and its issued Opinion.

In the section of the report entitled “Time Between Oral Argument and Opinion,” Bhatia analyzed the time it takes for the Court to issue an opinion following each case’s Oral Argument date. According to the report, the average time for last year’s term was 109 days. In other words, the Court released its opinion for each case an average of 109 days after the case’s Oral Argument. In analyzing the Court’s last eight terms, however, 109 appears to be on the high side. A more statistically significant number, the average of the Court’s last eight terms (since October Term of 2010), is approximately 98 days. Thus, based on this statistic, we can roughly predict the date for which the Court might issue its opinion in Madison v. Alabama, thereby giving us a “deadline” of sorts. As stated supra, the Oral Argument for Madison is scheduled for October 2, 2018. 98 days after October 2, 2018, is January 8, 2019. Therefore, based on this statistic, we can conclude that our deadline for releasing our opinion ought to be around January 8, 2019.

However, a keen observer might raise the contention that the elapsed time between argument and opinion seems to rapidly diminish as the Court’s term continues on. Indeed, this would be a very astute observation: last term, for cases argued from October to April, the elapsed time between argument and opinion steadily dropped (157-124-130-118-111-74-58 days, respectively). Consequently, one might aptly point out that since the time elapsed for cases argued in October greatly exceeds that of the past eight terms’ average (157 days v. 98 days), and since Madison will be argued in early October, the “98 day” deadline may be statistically low.

As a result, we did our own average. Going back eight terms to October 2010, we calculated the averaged elapsed time between Oral Argument and Opinion for cases argued only in October (thus reflecting Madison v. Alabama). Our results are as follows:

  • Overall Average: ~116 days
  • 2010 Term: 117 days
  • 2011 Term: 110 days
  • 2012 Term: 129 days
  • 2013 Term: 99 days
  • 2014 Term: 91 days
  • 2015 Term: 112 days
  • 2016 Term: 111 days
  • 2017 Term: 157 days

As the data show, cases argued in October have a comparatively higher elapsed time than the average of all cases for the past eight terms. It appears the “157 days” for this past term’s October cases is an outlier on the high side, but the overall average of October cases is nearly three weeks longer than the average of all cases. Thus, based on this statistic, we can predict that our deadline ought to be 116 days after Madison’s Oral Argument, which is January 26, 2019.

Of course, these predictions are all rough estimates. We can roughly estimate that the Court will release its opinion for Madison v. Alabama sometime between the second and fourth weeks of January. For our other two shortlist cases (Gamble v. U.S. and Timbs v. Indiana), the Court has not yet set their dates for Oral Argument. Thus, all we can say is that the Court tentatively will not issue an opinion for either case until after its opinion in Madison v. Alabama. Again, the key word is tentatively. But, at least this gives us somewhat of a deadline! Again, the selection of our case for the Court’s next term will be announced this coming Sunday.

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