Linda Greenhouse spins the Citizens United rumor mill in this piece in today’s Times.
In placing two major recent precedents in question and setting off a mid-summer scramble to file supplemental briefs and prepare for an unnecessarily expedited argument, the court cheated the public of the full airing that the complex questions merit. Just as important, the court cheated itself with a power play that prized haste over the calm deliberation that would seem to offer the only path to finding common ground on a polarized court.
Now it appears that the chief justice and his allies may have overreached. With 37 cases argued so far this term, the court left town having decided a scant four. There is some speculation that a prolonged internal struggle over how far to go in Citizens United has sucked the air out of the term. The court’s silence, of course, proves only that it had nothing ready for prime time. Perhaps a tactical retreat to minimalism is in the offing, as happened last term, when the court’s conservatives teed up a constitutional evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, only to back down in the end.