Congressman Johnson Chairing IP Hearing on “The Supreme Court’s Shadow Docket”

February 17, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, February 18 at 2 PM, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, will chair a hearing on hearing on “The Supreme Court’s Shadow Docket.”  

The hearing will examine the Supreme Court’s “shadow docket,” an unofficial term used to describe the large number of orders and decisions — there were more than 6,000 in 2019 alone — that the Court issues without the hallmarks of normal court procedure. These rulings happen in the “shadows” as they are issued without full briefing or oral argument, and often without disclosing how the justices voted or any explanation for the reasons behind the decision. 

These rulings can determine whether an execution goes forward, whether emergency coronavirus regulations take effect, how an election is conducted, or how the census proceeds.  While these decisions usually occur in intermediate stages of a case, they can also effectively end the case, particularly when deciding issues of urgency such as imminent executions or election-related matters.  While the shadow docket has always been a part of the Supreme Court’s practice, in recent years there have been two notable changes:  the increase with which the U.S. Solicitor General has sought emergency relief from lower court orders, and the increase in the number of decisions that have clearly been decided along partisan lines.

WHO: Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) along with IP subcommittee members;


  • Professor Stephen Vladeck, Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts, University of Texas School of Law;
  • Amir Ali, Deputy Director of the Supreme Court and Appellate Program, MacArthur Justice Center;
  • Michael Morley, Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Law; and
  • Loren AliKhan, Solicitor General of the District of Columbia.

WHAT: The hearing will examine the recent growth of the shadow docket, the impact and importance of the shadow docket, and the types of cases found on the shadow docket. It will also allow Members to explore issues of transparency and institutional legitimacy in the Court’s shadow docket practice.

WHEN: Thursday, February 18 at 2 PM;



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