With only two decisions issued today, the Supreme Court's molasses-like pace of resolving cases continues. As Bloomberg's Greg Stohr reports today (via How Appealing,) the Court is significantly behind its output of recent years. Hard issues like partial-birth abortion and the use of race in public school class assignments are probably bogging things down, and with the two relative newcomers -- John Roberts, Jr. and Samuel Alito, Jr. -- traditional alliances and the tricks for winning majorities are still undergoing a makeover. In his NPR quiz show appearance last weekend, Justice Stephen Breyer again deployed his oft-repeated mantra that "I’ve never heard a voice raised in anger" among justices in his 12 years at the Court.
Whether it is a cause or a corollary of the slow pace, Roberts' goal of unanimity -- even if it means deciding cases very narrowly -- seems in peril. Case in point: today's ruling in Limtiaco v. Camacho, which resolves the burning questions of when Guam Supreme Court rulings become final, and how Guam's public debt should be calculated. Even though the author Justice Clarence Thomas stressed that "our holding is limited to the unique procedural circumstances presented here," Thomas could not hold a unanimous Court. Here's the breakdown, from the text of the opinion:
THOMAS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court with respect to Part II, and the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, III, and IV, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, and BREYER, JJ., joined. SOUTER, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which STEVENS, GINSBURG, and ALITO, JJ., joined.