The Supreme Court's nine-month term ended Monday, marking a historic period of time for the judicial branch as the justices set a modern record for reaching consensus. Because the court operated with just eight justices for the majority of its term, the breakdown "probably required having a lot more discussion of some things and more compromise and maybe narrower opinions than we would have issued otherwise," said Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
The term had the highest share of unanimous cases ever after 2013, but it also had the highest share of votes in the majority opinion in at least 70 years, The New York Times reports. Additionally, the share of cases decided by a margin of 5-3 or 5-4 was well below the court's average.
"It has been a quiet term, and that is a good thing for the country," said University of Chicago law professor William Baude. "Overall, this year the court was the least dramatic, and most functional, branch of government."
That could soon change. Notably, the 2016-2017 term did not have the same high-profile cases of terms past, like recent gay rights, health care, and abortion rulings. "We got used to the idea that every year the court decides several of the biggest national political issues — six or seven consecutive 'terms of the century' — but this year saw a regression to the mean," said Cato Institute lawyer Ilya Shapiro.
That won't last, though. The court has agreed to hear cases on "a clash between gay rights and claims of religious freedom, constitutional limits on partisan gerrymandering, cell phone privacy, human rights violations by corporations, and the ability of employees to band together to address workplace issues," The New York Times writes.
And that's not to mention the October arguments on President Trump's travel ban.