THE COURT’S PROCESS

Step 1

At least four justices agree to grant a case

Step 2

The justices hear arguments from lawyers

Step 3

Their decision is announced

CASE OUTCOMES

4-to-4 ties

5-to-4 or 5-to-3 divided decisions

Other 7-to-1, 6-to-2 or 4-to-2 decisions

Unanimous 8-to-0 or 9-to-0 decisions

Unanimous, anonymous decision

Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016

Justice Neil

M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

Three cases were delayed.

Six cases for the 2016 term were granted shortly before Scalia died.

Two cases about when immigrants can be deported will be reargued next term.

Summer

break

Jan.

2016

Oct.

July

Jan.

2017

THE COURT’S PROCESS

CASE OUTCOMES

4-to-4 ties

Step 1

At least four justices agree to grant a case

Step 2

The justices hear arguments from lawyers

Step 3

Their decision is announced

5-to-4 or 5-to-3 divided decisions

Other 7-to-1, 6-to-2 or 4-to-2 decisions

Unanimous 8-to-0 or 9-to-0 decisions

Unanimous, anonymous decision

Three cases were not argued for nearly a year.

Justice Antonin Scalia died Feb. 13, 2016

Justice Neil

M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

Summer break

Six cases for the 2016 term were granted shortly before Scalia died.

Two cases about when immigrants can be deported will be reargued next term.

Summer break

July

Jan. 2016

July

Oct.

Jan. 2017

CASE OUTCOMES

THE COURT’S PROCESS

4-to-4 ties

Step 1

At least four justices agree to grant a case

Step 2

The justices hear arguments from lawyers

Step 3

Their decision is announced

5-to-4 or 5-to-3 divided decisions

Other 7-to-1, 6-to-2 or 4-to-2 decisions

Unanimous 8-to-0 or 9-to-0 decisions

Unanimous, anonymous decision

Justice Antonin Scalia died on Feb. 13, 2016

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

Summer break

Three cases were not argued for nearly a year.

Six cases for the 2016 term were granted shortly before Scalia died.

Two cases about when immigrants can be deported will be reargued next term.

Cases are normally argued shortly after they are accepted, like these.

Summer break

Jan. 2016

July

Oct.

Jan. 2017

July

Right before Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, the court took three cases — on takings, class-action lawsuits and religious rights — for its 2016-2017 term that, without nine justices, seemed likely to end in a 4-to-4 tie. Usually, the Supreme Court hears arguments in each case in the exact same order as they accepted them, but these cases were different.

“They held them for month after month without arguing them,” said John Elwood, a Washington lawyer who closely watches the court’s deliberations on accepting cases. “They wanted to see if they could have them argued to the full court.”

The court generally wants to avoid 4-4 rulings. “From any perspective — ideological or courts legitimacy — there’s not a lot to be gained by 4-4 rulings,” Supreme Court scholar Adam Feldman said. This term, the court finished with two 4-to-4 decisions in cases they heard before Neil Gorsuch joined their ranks. The cases ask, respectively, whether those facing deportation be held indefinitely and when immigrants can be deported for crimes. They will be reargued before a full court in their next term.

Despite delays, the court decided significant cases this term. Here’s some of them:  

Church and state

Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Alito

Kennedy

Roberts

Thomas

Breyer

Gorsuch

Dissented

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Alito

Kennedy

Roberts

Thomas

Breyer

Gorsuch

Dissented

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

The court ruled 7 to 2 that religious institutions may not be excluded from state programs with a secular intent — in this case, making playgrounds safer.

Read more: Supreme Court sides with religious institutions in a major church-state decision

Trademarks

Matal v. Tam

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Alito

Kennedy

Ginsburg

Roberts

Thomas

Breyer

Sotomayor

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Alito

Kennedy

Roberts

Thomas

Breyer

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

The court ruled unanimously that the federal government has violated the First Amendment by refusing to register trademarks that officials consider disparaging, in a decision that provides a boost to the Washington Redskins’ efforts to hang on to the team’s controversial name. Gorsuch did not take part in the decision.

Read more: Rejecting trademarks that ‘disparage’ others violates the First Amendment

Criminal procedure

Lee v. United States

Voted with

majority

Kennedy

Kagan

Breyer

Ginsburg

Roberts

Sotomayor

Dissented

Alito

Thomas

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

Voted with

majority

Roberts

Kagan

Kennedy

Breyer

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

Dissented

Alito

Thomas

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

The court ruled 6 to 2 to give a second chance to a U.S. permanent resident who pleaded guilty to a drug charge and faces deportation because his lawyer gave him bad advice.

Read more: Supreme Court gives second chance to man facing deportation because of bad lawyering

Redistricting

Cooper v. Harris

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Breyer

Thomas

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

Dissented

Roberts

Kennedy

Alito

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

Voted with

majority

Kagan

Breyer

Thomas

Ginsburg

Sotomayor

Dissented

Roberts

Kennedy

Alito

Did not

participate

Gorsuch

The court ruled 5 to 3 that North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature relied on racial gerrymandering when drawing the state’s congressional districts, a decision that could make it easier to challenge other state redistricting plans. Gorsuch did not take part in the decision.

Read more: Supreme Court rules race improperly dominated N.C. redistricting efforts

After Gorsuch joined the court, the justices agreed to take up some more contentious issues for the next term, which runs from October 2017 to June 2018.

Justice Neil

M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

The justices chose 13 cases for the 2017-2018 term before Gorsuch joined the court, a slower pace than most years.

Summer

break

Jan.

2016

Oct.

July

Jan.

2017

They will re-argue two cases from the 2016 term.

The justices chose 13 cases for the 2017-2018 term before Gorsuch joined the court, a slower pace than most years.

Justice Neil

M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

Summer break

July 2016

Oct.

Jan. 2017

July

They will re-argue two cases from the 2016 term.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch

joined the court on April 10

The justices chose 13 cases for the 2017-2018 term before Gorsuch joined the court, a slower pace than most years.

Summer break

They will re-argue two cases from the 2016 term.

July 2016

Oct.

Jan. 2017

July

The court will decide whether a warrant is needed to track a suspect through cellphone records and whether Wisconsin Republicans went too far when drawing state legislative districts. They will also decide whether a Denver baker unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case justices considered a record 14 times before deciding to hear it.

Early next term, the court will also consider the president’s broad powers in immigration matters, in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination. The temporary ban on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees from all countries was fast-tracked, with the administration asking the courts to take up the issue in early June after lower courts blocked President Trump’s executive order.

 

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified a criminal procedure case. It is Lee vs. United States.

About this story

Data from SCOTUSblog and Oyez.

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