At a glance: What is the Supreme Court’s shadow docket?

Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

(NewsNation) — The shadow docket has been used by the Supreme Court to weigh in on everything from coronavirus restrictions to abortion.

So what is it? Here is what we know:

  • 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.

Over the years, the use of the shadow docket has gotten more frequent. In 2016, there were about three used. Last summer, there were 11.

Critics argue the shadow docket is rushed and not transparent. Chief Justice John Roberts is one of the critics of the shadow docket, acknowledging it is a problem that the justices are being asked to weigh in on hot button issues without transparency or the full process playing out.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., asked Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson about her views on the shadow docket during Tuesday’s marathon hearing.

Jackson defended the shadow docket, while promising to take a closer look at how it is used in certain cases.

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