Around the country, speculation abounds and rumors fly about what the Supreme Court may decide in the blockbuster federal health care overhaul case. A Reuters article, however, throws cold water on all the heated buzz and tells how the in-chambers process typically works. Reporter Joan Biskupic writes:
“The reality at the Supreme Court is that those who know don’t talk, and those who talk don’t know. The justices take their votes in secret, going around the table in order of seniority, with no clerks or secretaries present. Draft opinions are closely held in chambers. Discarded versions are burned or shredded. The clerk’s office does not know the outcome of a case until a decision is about to be released. And the release date is not set until all the writing and rewriting by the majority and dissent is done.”
Biskupic, a veteran observer of the Supreme Court, explains that inside the justices’ chambers, votes on a decision even can shift during the process. This level of details doesn’t usually become public until years later when deceased justices’ papers are made public.
Leaks are so rare, she writes, that the last one came more a quarter century ago. Then-journalist Tim O’Brien of ABC TV reported the court would overturn the next day part of a law requiring the federal government to balance its budget. He was right about the outcome, but not the timing. The ruling came several weeks later.