Justice Samuel Alito took some time to defend recent Supreme Court decisions with emergency motions and then snapped at the mainstream media for “political talk about our sinister ‘shadow docket.'”
Alito made his comments during a speech he delivered at the University of Notre Dame Law School, saying that recent court actions in major cases weren’t done with haste, nor were they given less attention than other cases involving a full briefing and an oral argument.
Toward the end of August, the court put the “Remain in Mexico” immigration policy formulated under the Trump administration, then resumed evictions that were paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and also would not stop a law in Texas that placed heavy limitations on abortion from being put into effect.
All three of these cases came to the court as emergency motions and were then decided by what is referred to as a court’s “shadow docket,” which is a term that is used to describe cases that are decided quickly and without the court’s typical process.
“Our decisions in these three emergency matters have been criticized by those who think we should have decided them the other way, and I have no trouble with fair criticism of the substance of those decisions,” the justice said.
“My complaint concerns all the media and political talk about our sinister ‘shadow docket.’ The truth of the matter is that there was nothing new or shadowy about the procedures we followed in those cases — it’s hard to see how we could handle most emergency matters any differently,” Alito stated.
Alito said the court has been wrongly cast as “a dangerous cabal … deciding important issues in a novel, secretive, improper way, in the middle of the night,” CNN reported.
The most recent emergency motion, regarding the Texas abortion law, was decided 5-4. The unsigned majority opinion in that case was issued around midnight and wasn’t even two full pages, CBS News said.
Alito said it was “false and inflammatory” for critics to claim that the conservatives in the Texas case effectively nullified the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion, CBS News reported.
The judge, who was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005 by then-President George W. Bush, said there have been more emergency motions in recent years.
Justice Alito then attributed that to a flood of cases that were brought about by former President Donald Trump and his initiatives, and due to the issues that were caused by the COVID pandemic.
The justice then stated he wasn’t trying to suggest that “our current practice is perfect and that possible changes should not be considered,” but added recent criticism of the court “feeds unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court or damage it as an independent institution.”