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The United States Supreme Court: How Justices Select Cases and Make Decisions that Profundly Affect Our Lives and Communities

  • 15 Mar 2024
  • 11:30 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Spinning Room, Willamette Heritage Center


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The United States Supreme Court:
How Justices Select Cases and Make Decisions that Profundly Affect Our Lives and Communities

Friday, March 15, 2024
Willamette Heritage Center, Spinning Room
1313 Mill St SE, Salem, OR 97301
Doors Open 11:30 am
Program: 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

The United States Supreme Court has been convening to hear cases since 1790. In their 234 years as the “highest court in the land,” the justices -- ranging from as few as 5 to as many as 10, and as a Court of 9 members today -- have heard and rendered decisions on thousands of cases. In recent years, the Court has garnered increased attention, scrutiny, and controversy -- as 4 of the 9 current justices were nominated and confirmed in the past 7 years; and given concerns expressed about the Court’s ethical standards, as well as their use of what some have called a “shadow docket” to take petitions and hear cases. The Brennan Center writes, “Most orders from the shadow docket, such as due dates for briefs, have little importance to anyone beyond the 

litigating parties. However, other shadow docket matters, such as requests to halt a lower court’s orders, can have high stakes. The Court might, for example, reinstate a law after a lower court had stopped its implementation.”


Stephen Vladeck, in his 2023 book, The Shadow Docket: How the Supreme Court Uses Stealth Rulings to Amass Power and Undermine the Republic, addresses the Supreme Court’s growing reliance on this “docket,” especially in recent years, and how it has generated controversy and raised concerns for many lawyers, scholars, and judges; as well as journalists and the public. This program will provide an overview of how the Supreme Court functions, with a focus on the Court’s emergency appeals processes, including the “shadow docket” that has been increasingly used by the Court to take cases and render its decisions, often without detailed written opinions or clear guidance. Particularly in a presidential election year -- and given current issues of local and national import including voting rights and redistricting, religious liberty, and presidential immunity -- we at City Club think that it is important to be informed on the processes that the U.S. Supreme Court uses in taking appeals and petitions, hearing cases, and issuing its rulings. The Court’s decisions often have significant implications for us individually and collectively in our work, communities, families, businesses, and organizations. 


The Honorable Jack L. Landau
Oregon Supreme Court, 2011-2017
Oregon Court of Appeals, 1993-through 2010
Distinguished Jurist in Residence, Willamette University College of Law

The Honorable Jack L. Landau is Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Willamette University College of Law and is a member of the adjunct faculty at the University of Oregon Law School. He teaches courses in constitutional law, legislation, and state constitutional law. Judge Landau served as an Associate Justice on the Oregon Supreme Court for seven years and before that as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals for 18 years. Prior to becoming a judge, he worked in the Oregon Department of Justice, first as the Attorney-in-Charge of the department’s Special Litigation Unit and later as the Deputy Attorney General. He represented the state in a wide variety of cases at trial and on appeal, including the successful defense of the constitutionality of Oregon’s famous public beach legislation in Stevens v. Cannon Beach, as well as the constitutionality of the state’s video poker laws in Ecumenical Ministries v. Oregon Lottery Commission. He also argued the habeas corpus appeal of Keeney v. Tamayo-Reyes before the United States Supreme Court. 

Judge Landau has co-edited several books on state constitutional law and has published more than 30 law review articles on constitutional and statutory interpretation. He is a frequent speaker at continuing education programs sponsored by national, state, and local bar associations. In 2017, he was invited to deliver the 25th annual Robert F. Williams lecture on state constitutional law at Rutgers University Law School. He also volunteers for the Classroom Law project and regularly speaks to high school civics classes around the state.  He brings a unique perspective to us, having deep and varied experience on both sides of the bench.

Selected References:

Supreme Court of the United States  website/home page: https://www.supremecourt.gov/ 

The Supreme Court's Shadow Docket, Rund Abdelfatah (and others) Throughline, podcast- interview, NPR, November 2, 2023 https://www.npr.org/2023/11/02/1198908186/throughline-draft-11-02-2023

Symposium: Shining a light on the shadow docket. James Romoser, SCOTUSblog, Oct 22, 2020. https://www.scotusblog.com/2020/10/symposium-shining-a-light-on-the-shadow-docket/ 

Justice Roberts' criticism of 'shadow docket' underscores the problem Hassan Kanu, Reuters, April 8, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/legal/government/justice-roberts-criticism-shadow-docket-underscores-problem-2022-04-08/

The Supreme Court’s “Shadow” Docket — A Response to Professor Vladeck. Mark Rienzi, National Review, March 16, 2021, https://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/the-supreme-courts-shadow-docket-a-response-to-professor-vladeck/ 

Alito Responds to Critics of the Supreme Court’s ‘Shadow Docket’ Adam Lipton, The New York  Times, September 30, 2021.

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