Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Next steps for the Court

Yesterday was huge, of course, but there remain a number of outstanding procedural details that the Court will need to specify in the coming days or weeks. Here is a brief list for those interested:

1. Set an argument date (or dates): The Court releases argument calendars periodically over the course of the Term, as the number of granted cases fill the relevant calendar. Thus far, the Court has already conducted its October and November sittings, and it has released the calendars for December and January. Normally, the Court would not release its March calendar for another several weeks. But perhaps this case is different, given the number of people involved and the level of national interest. In all events, it is virtually certain this case will be scheduled for late March; argument in mid-April would give the justices precious little time to draft their opinions, respond to one another, etc., by the end of the term in June. Hearing argument in March gives them an additional month to write the opinions. Moreover, it seems quite likely that it will be scheduled over two days; five and a half hours is too long for even the most interested human being to maintain her concentration.

2. Set a briefing schedule: In a post yesterday, I sketched out the briefing schedule dictated by the default rules that apply if the Court does not specify otherwise. That calls for all of the topside briefs (to be filed by everyone, since they are all petitioners in one of the cases) to be filed during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. That seems a little unfortunate. The Court has a little wiggle room -- about 10-14 days that it could extend the default dates and still have the case argued the week of March 26. So I'm guessing the Court might extend the dates by a week or so. Regardless, the Court is likely to solidify the briefing schedule -- either by issuing an order or denying a request for an extension -- relatively soon.

3. Perhaps appoint amicus to argue the AIA issue: This is not mandatory. The Court could hear argument on the question without any attorney actually contending that the AIA bars jurisdiction here. But the matter is complex enough that the justices might benefit from such an airing. (They will get the argument in an amicus brief regardless.) If the Court is to appoint someone to argue, it needs to be soon, so that person will be ready by March.

Perhaps there are some other housecleaning matters I have overlooked. But those seem to be the big ones at this point.