Supreme Court Has Decided at Least 65 Emergency (Shadow Docket) Election Law Cases in Last 12 Years, Including 15 Cases in the 2020 Term; The Number Could Explode after Moore v. Harper

I wanted to highlight some numbers I put together with my co-authors at Manatt for our amicus brief in the Moore v. Harper case:

The amount of emergency election-related litigation filed in this Court is already high. In the last dozen terms, there have been at least 65 emergency, election-related motions decided by this Court. Because many of these disputes must be resolved, with finality, before an election or just after an election and before a winner is certified, litigants understandably come to this Court as the final arbiter of these questions. These cases are high pressure and often must be resolved on skimpy records given the exigent circumstances.

This is especially a concern in election years. In the 2016 term alone, this Court considered eleven emergency election-related petitions, and in the 2020 term there were fifteen. Most recently, there were seven in the 2021 term, a non-presidential election year.

If this Court accepts Petitioners’ expansive theory of the Elections Clause, these already high numbers will undoubtedly continue to grow. The same incentives for increased litigation described in Part I.B, supra, apply especially to this Court. With ample resources for litigation, litigants would have no reason to resist bringing cases to this Court, either directly from state supreme courts or through collateral litigation in lower federal courts, asking this Court to wade into political matters in the heat of disputed and contentious election periods.

The brief’s appendix lists the cases. I don’t think anyone else has put these numbers together before.

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