The Supreme Court today let it be known that it will hand down the first signed opinion of its term on Monday. As is the custom, the Court did not announce which case it will hand down first, even though other high courts like California's do so routinely, and others like Canada's sometimes give the press an advance peek.
If the first decision emerges on Nov. 15, it will be in keeping with the Roberts Court's trend of issuing its first ruling of the term somewhat later than the Rehnquist Court. As indicated by this breakdown of the last decade on the Daily Writ blog, the Court often, but not always, handed down its first ruling earlier in November under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a notorious taskmaster who held his colleagues to strict deadlines. Since John Roberts Jr. became chief justice in 2005 and started administering with a lighter hand, the first-opinion date has slipped twice into December. Vagaries of the calendar, such as the date of the first Monday in October when the Court term begins, are also a factor.