Late night decision highlights increasing tension in Supreme Court

According to Josh Blackman, a professor as the South Texas College of Law Houston, all is not well on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Blackman points to the public dissent issued by Justice Stephen Breyer in a late-night death penalty decision as proof tensions are on the rise within the Supreme Court.

This is tragic. For our justice system to stand strong, we need justices who are willing to look past their differences and get the job done.

Airing Dirty Laundry

While most cases can take weeks or months to make their way through the Supreme Court, death penalty cases are generally handled more expediently.

The nature of the cases often demands a swift decision due to the expiration of the death warrant.

The recent execution of Christopher Lee Price and how the Supreme Court handled the appeal was made public, a very rare situation for the Supreme Court.

The last-second appeal was denied by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court.

This decision did not sit well with Justice Breyer, who believed the appeal should have been put on the docket the next day to give the Justices time to discuss the case in person. Joining him in the dissent were liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Instead, the majority rule was that Price’s attorney had waited too long to make his appeal and the execution should move forward.

However, the execution was halted because the Supreme Court’s decision was not made until after midnight, which is when the death warrant expired.

A Solution

Blackman believes this problem can be solved by putting a mandatory 72-hour hold on executions sitting before the Supreme Court.

This will enable the justices plenty of time to schedule arguments to discuss the case in person before making a final decision.

More importantly, he believes this will prevent the minority on the court from taking decisions public in the manner Breyer did here.

The airing of grievances by Supreme Court Justices, in the opinion of Blackman, does far more harm than good.

He cited an unnamed federal judge, who stated that conducting business in this manner could “irreparably damage the already strained working relationships among the judges” as well as “undermine public confidence in the [judges’] ability to perform our important role in the American democracy.”

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