Important decisions about Americans' right to vote and control over their own bodies demands discussion and transparency. Not the Shadow Docket.
"The conservative justices are scrapping Americans’ constitutional rights, all while pretending they aren’t. They are consciously ignoring landmark precedents in order to signal to Republican lawmakers that they are free to violate the constitutional rights of their constituents..." - The Atlantic
“It’s hard for the public to know what is going on, and it’s hard for the public to trust that the court is doing its best work,” said William Baude, a conservative law professor at University of Chicago Law School who coined the phrase “shadow docket” and has called for greater transparency. To get on the shadow docket, any litigant can apply to a single justice, who decides whether to forward the dispute to the full court. Five votes among the nine justices are needed to grant a request. - Reuters
".. the Shadow Docket offers the Supreme Court’s conservative majority a shortcut to desired policy goals without fully going on the record about their logic or addressing the counter-arguments. "The majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making — which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent, and impossible to defend," wrote Elena Kagan. - Politifact
Dirty dozen Shadow Docket decisions
What is the Shadow Docket?
- The shadow docket is a break from ordinary procedure.
- They are expedited decisions made without oral argument or briefing.
- They can involve emergency rulings on time-sensitive cases.
- Justices provide no explanation for their ruling.
- They can result in a single paragraph ruling with no detailed explanation of why.
- They can be unsigned, cloaking how Justices voted.
- The term was coined in 2015 by University of Chicago Law professor William Baude.
- In 2021 the Supreme Court used the Shadow Docket eleven times.
Activist conservative justices
"The Trump administration won shadow docket requests in 28 of 41 cases during his term – a near 70% success rate, according to Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Just 8 were filed in 16 years by the administrations of Bush and Obama administrations, four of which were granted. The Trump Justice Department broke norms by repeatedly resorting to these emergency applications to undo the actions of lower courts it disliked – sometimes leapfrogging appeals courts along the way. The most obvious change came in federal death penalty cases. The justices on eight occasions, often with little or no explanation, overturned lower court rulings that had put federal executions on hold." - Reuters
Keep Infographics Super Simple (KISS)
This infographic was designed with the free Infogram app and packs a lot of information in an easy to understand style. These design tips help you tell your story and make it easy to share with others.
- Draw people into your story with a graphics and a short title. I used the MacDonald's Hamburglar as it conveys the idea of 'theft', as in people's rights being stolen.
- I chose twelve recent Supreme Court Shadow Docket cases. A simple one line description of summarizes the case with a link to more details.
- There are twelve simple icons used to represent the cases. These icons are licensed from the Noun Project and you can find free copies of the ones I used here.
- Four colors are used for simplicity - yellow, red, grey and black.
- Each case includes a short videos that provides more details.
- A call to action encourages people to learn more about the Shadow Docket from the Alliance For Justice.
- A link makes it easy to contact Senator to demand an end to partisan Supreme Court activism.
Make it easy to read and share
Many people get news on phones, so make sure your infographic displays well on whatever device they are using. The free Infogram app automatically adjusts your content to display well on different devices. The free QR Code Generator app create a QR Code for the app which makes it easy to share the infographic on social media. This is how the infographics appears on a phone:
"We are currently witnessing that cost as the erosion of public trust in the Court’s legitimacy. Judicial actors must be held to account just like political leaders. Despite the complexities of their rulings, people must pay attention to these decisions and call for greater transparency in the judicial process. In order for the decisions made on the merits docket to hold weight, the Court must stop their shady practices on the shadow docket." - The Baines Report
"Running democracy through an unelected lifetime aristocracy answerable to no one with the power to issue arbitrary opinions under its self-determined “emergency” powers is awesome!" - Above The Law
“This is a court telling Republican legislators that tricks are fine, that shenanigans are fine – as long as we like the bottom line that those tricks and shenanigans produce.” - The Guardian
TakeAway: Demand the Supreme Court review and judge cases fairly - not quietly make Shadow Docket partisan decisions that deny Americans their rights.
Shadow Docket Resources
- IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT: The Supreme Court’s Use of the Shadow Docket to Enact a Radical and Hyper-Partisan Agenda - Alliance For Justice
- The Supreme Court Seems to Think Discrimination Is When You Try to Remedy Discrimination - The Atlantic
- The 'shadow docket': How the U.S. Supreme Court quietly dispatches key rulings - Reuters
- Supreme Court Shadow Docket Just Throwing Darts At Democracy At This Point - Above The Law
- Trump Justices Help Supreme Court Majority to Harm Minority Voting Rights in Shadow Docket Ruling - PFAW
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Image credit: MacDonald's Hamburglar