Author

Kate Carsella

Kate Carsella is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Voters decide state-level races in Kentucky, New York, South Carolina

On June 23, 2020, Kentucky and New York held primaries for state-level offices, and South Carolina held state legislative primary runoff elections. Candidates competed to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

In Kentucky, 19 state Senate seats and all 100 state House seats were on the ballot, along with one state supreme court seat and one state intermediate appellate court seat. 104 incumbents filed for re-election.

A special general election was held in District 26 of the Kentucky State Senate. The seat became vacant when Ernie Harris (R) retired from the legislature on April 15, 2020.

In New York, 63 state Senate seats and all 150 state Assembly seats were on the ballot, and 179 incumbents filed for re-election.

State legislative special elections in New York were scheduled to take place in one state Senate district and three state Assembly districts. On April 24, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo canceled the special elections. Those seats will remain vacant until the general election on November 3.

South Carolina held primary runoffs for races in which a candidate did not receive a majority of votes in the primary election, which took place on June 9. Eleven races were on the primary runoff ballot, including eight state House seats and three state Senate seats.

Kentucky and New York’s statewide primaries were the 24th and 25th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. Virginia also held a statewide primary for congressional offices. The next statewide primaries are on June 30, 2020, in Colorado, Utah, and Oklahoma.

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SCOTUS grants review in 2 cases for October 2020-2021 term

On June 15, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) granted review in two cases for its upcoming October 2020-2021 term.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing cases for the term on October 5, 2020. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June.

Albence v. Guzman Chavez

The case Albence v. Guzman Chavez came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. It concerns the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and the statutory authority under which the government detains immigrants seeking to overturn deportation after a reinstated removal order. As of June 16, 2020, the case’s argument date was pending.

The case: The case originated in a dispute over whether the respondents, a group of immigrants detained by the U.S. government pending deportation proceedings, could seek release in bond hearings before immigration judges. The government argued that they could not seek release, because 8 U.S.C. 1231 subjected the immigrants to mandatory detention. The immigrants argued that 8 U.S.C. 1226 allowed them to seek release via bond hearings. The U.S. District Court held the respondents were detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226 and ordered the government to provide bond hearings. On appeal, the 4th Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling.

The issue: Whether the detention of an alien who is subject to a reinstated removal order and who is pursuing withholding or deferral of removal is governed by 8 U.S.C. 1231 or by 8 U.S.C. 1226.

Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc.

The case Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer and White Sales Inc. originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and concerns arbitration agreements. As of June 16, 2020, the case’s argument date was pending.

The case: In 2012, Archer & White Sales, Inc. filed a lawsuit in magisterial court against Henry Schein, Inc. alleging that the company violated the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Texas Free Enterprise and Antitrust Act. Henry Schein, Inc. filed motions to compel arbitration and stay all proceedings. The magistrate judge granted the defendants’ motions. In 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas reversed and vacated the magistrate judge’s ruling and issued an order denying the motions to compel arbitration. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the district court’s order. In 2018, Schein appealed to the Supreme Court, which vacated the 5th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case. On remand, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of motions to compel arbitration. In 2020, Schein petitioned the Supreme Court for review.

The issue: Whether an arbitration agreement provision exempting certain claims from arbitration negates an otherwise clear and unmistakable delegation of arbitrability questions to an arbitrator.

As of June 16, 2020, the court had agreed to hear 22 cases during its 2020-2021 term. Of those, 12 were originally scheduled for the 2019-2020 term but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Supreme Court issues opinion in one case on June 8

On June 8, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) issued a unanimous ruling in one case, Lomax v. Ortiz-Marquez. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on February 26, 2020.

The case: Arthur James Lomax is a prisoner at the Limon Correctional Facility in Colorado and was previously incarcerated at the Centennial Correctional Facility in Colorado. Lomax filed a complaint against five Centennial Correctional Facility employees and a member of the Central Classification Committee at Offender Services, and filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, meaning to proceed without assuming liability for the costs of the suit, with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

The District of Colorado rejected Lomax’s complaint under the three-strikes provision of the United States Code, and rejected Lomax’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis for failure to show cause of imminent physical danger. The court ordered Lomax to pay the appellate filing fee in full. On appeal, the 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling.

The issue: Is the dismissal of a civil action without prejudice for failure to state a claim a strike under 28 U.S.C. 1915(g), or is it not?

The outcome: The court affirmed the 10th Circuit’s judgment in a 9-0 vote, holding that Section 1915(g) of the United States Code, or the three-strikes provision, refers to any dismissal for failure to state a claim, whether with prejudice or without. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of the court. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the majority opinion as to all but footnote 4.

As of June 8, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 39 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2018, SCOTUS released opinions in 924 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year. The court agreed to hear 74 cases during its 2019-2020 term.

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SCOTUS issues opinions in five cases

On June 1, 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) issued rulings in five cases argued during its October 2019-2020 term:
  • Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment LLC (Consolidated with Aurelius Investment v. Puerto Rico, Official Committee of Debtors v. Aurelius Investment, United States v. Aurelius Investment, and UTIER v. Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico) 
  • Banister v. Davis
  • Thole v. U.S. Bank
  • GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC 
  • Nasrallah v. Barr
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment LLC
Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico v. Aurelius Investment LLC came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit and involved how the Appointments Clause in Article II of the U.S. Constitution applies to U.S. territories. The case was argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on October 15, 2019.
  • The case: In 2016, Congress enacted the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act. The act created the Financial Oversight and Management Board and authorized the board to begin debt adjustment proceedings on behalf of the Puerto Rico government. After the board began proceedings in 2017, Aurelius Investment LLC, (“Aurelius”) and the Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego (“UTIER”) challenged the board’s authority in federal district court, arguing the board members’ appointment violated the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The district court ruled against Aurelius and UTIER. On appeal, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court in part, holding the board members “must be, and were not, appointed in compliance with the Appointments Clause.”
  • The issue: Whether the Appointments Clause governs the appointment of members of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico.
  • The outcome: The court ruled 9-0 that the Appointments Clause governed the appointment of members of the FOMB but that the method of appointment used did not violate its requirements.
Banister v. Davis
Banister v. Davis came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and concerned timely habeas petitions. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on December 4, 2019.
  • The case: In 2004, a jury convicted Gregory Banister of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. After several appeals, Banister filed a petition under Rule 59(e) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure, asking the Northern District of Texas to revisit an earlier judgment. The district court denied the petition. On appeal, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals also denied Banister’s petition for a certificate of appealability on the grounds the petition was untimely based on Gonzalez v. Crosby. Banister appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing there was a circuit split on extending the Gonzalez decision to include Rule 59(e) motions.
  • The issue: Whether and under what circumstances a timely Rule 59(e) motion should be recharacterized as a second or successive habeas petition under Gonzalez v. Crosby, 545 U.S. 524 (2005).
  • The outcome: The court reversed and remanded the judgment of the 5th Circuit in a 7-2 vote, holding that because a Rule 59(e) motion to alter or amend a habeas court’s judgment is not a second or successive habeas petition under 28 U.S.C. §2244(b), Banister’s appeal was timely.
Thole v. U.S. Bank
Thole v. U.S. Bank was a case concerning the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and whether the plaintiffs had standing. It came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit and was argued before SCOTUS on January 13, 2020.
  • The case: James Thole and Sherry Smith sued U.S. Bank, N.A. over U.S. Bank’s management of a defined benefit pension plan. Thole and Smith alleged the bank violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and engaged in prohibited transactions, causing the plan to become underfunded. U.S. Bank sought to dismiss the case, arguing the plaintiffs did not have the legal right to sue and the statute of limitations had run out on the ERISA claims. The district court dismissed in part and granted in part U.S. Bank’s motion. In 2014, the plan became overfunded. The district court dismissed the case as moot. Thole and Smith appealed to the 8th Circuit, which affirmed the district court’s ruling. The plaintiffs then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, arguing the 8th Circuit’s ruling conflicted with other circuit court decisions.
  • The issues:
    • May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek injunctive relief against fiduciary misconduct under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(3) without demonstrating individual financial loss or the imminent risk thereof?
    • May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek restoration of plan losses caused by fiduciary breach under 29 U.S.C. 1132(a)(2) without demonstrating individual financial loss or the imminent risk thereof?
    • Whether petitioners have demonstrated Article III standing.
  • The outcome: The court affirmed the 8th Circuit’s decision in a 5-4 ruling, holding the plaintiffs did not have standing and would still receive the same amount of monthly benefits regardless of the case’s outcome.
GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC 
GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS v. Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC was a case relating to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the “New York Convention”).  It came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued before the Supreme Court on January 21, 2020.
  • The case: Outokumpu Stainless USA LLC (“Outokumpu”) contracted with Fives St. Corp. (“Fives”) to provide equipment for its steel plant in Alabama. Fives subcontracted with GE Energy Power Conversion France SAS (“GE Energy”), a foreign corporation, to supply the equipment. The contracts between Outokumpu and Fives and between Fives and GE Energy contained arbitration clauses. The equipment was installed between 2011 and 2012 but failed by 2015. Outokumpu sued GE Energy in Alabama state court. The case was moved to federal district court, which dismissed the case and compelled Outokumpu to undertake arbitration proceedings. On appeal, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision to compel arbitration. GE Energy appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for review, arguing the 11th Circuit’s decision underlined a 2-to-2 circuit court split.
  • The issue: Whether the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards permits a non-signatory to an arbitration agreement to compel arbitration based on the doctrine of equitable estoppel.
  • The outcome: The court reversed the decision of the 11th Circuit in a unanimous ruling, holding the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards does not conflict with doctrines in state law that allow the enforcement of arbitration agreements by non-signatories to those agreements.
Nasrallah v. Barr
Nasrallah v. Barr was a case concerning judicial review of a noncitizen’s factual challenges to an order denying relief under the international Convention Against Torture. The case came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued before the Supreme Court on March 2, 2020.
  • The case: Nidal Khalid Nasrallah, a citizen and native of Lebanon, pleaded guilty to two counts of receiving stolen property in interstate commerce in the United States. An immigration judge determined that one of Nasrallah’s convictions involved moral turpitude and constituted a particularly serious crime, but granted Nasrallah protection from removal from the country under the Convention Against Torture. The case was appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals, which affirmed in part and reversed in part the immigration judge’s decision and ordered Nasrallah’s removal. Nasrallah petitioned the 11th Circuit for review. The 11th Circuit denied in part and dismissed in part the petition.
  • The issue: “Whether, notwithstanding Section 1252(a)(2)(C), the courts of appeals possess jurisdiction to review factual findings underlying denials of withholding (and deferral) of removal relief.”
  • The outcome: The court reversed the 11th Circuit’s judgment in a 7-2 vote, holding that U.S. Code Sections 1252(a)(2)(C) and (D) do not prevent judicial review of a noncitizen’s factual challenges to a denial of relief order under the international Convention Against Torture.

As of June 1, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 38 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2018, SCOTUS released opinions in 924 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year. The court agreed to hear 74 cases during its 2019-2020 term.

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Connecticut Supreme Court justice to retire

On May 27, 2020, Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Richard Palmer stepped down from the court after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.

Palmer joined the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1993 after being appointed by Gov. Lowell Weicker and confirmed by the Connecticut General Assembly. Palmer was renominated and reconfirmed every eight years following.

Prior to joining the court, Palmer served as the chief state’s attorney for Connecticut from 1991 to 1993. From 1980 to 1982 and from 1987 to 1990, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for Connecticut. Palmer was in private practice from 1984 to 1986. He was a law clerk to Judge Jon Newman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut.

Palmer received his undergraduate degree from Trinity College in 1972 and his J.D., with high honors, from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1977. During his legal studies, he was a member of the Connecticut Law Review.

Palmer’s replacement will be Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) first nominee to the seven-member supreme court.

Under Connecticut law, state supreme court justices are selected using the assisted appointment method. Judges are selected by a commission-selection, political appointment method whereby a judicial nominating commission screens candidates and submits a list of names to the governor, who must appoint a judge from that list. The Connecticut General Assembly must then confirm the appointee. Judges serve for eight years. After that, they must be renominated by the governor and approved by the General Assembly to remain on the court.

Founded in 1784, the Connecticut Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has seven judgeships. The current justices are:

In 2020, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in nine of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Eight vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Four are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.

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Congressional major-party candidate filing deadline to pass in Vermont, Wyoming

The major-party congressional filing deadlines to run for elected office in Vermont and Wyoming are on May 28 and May 29, respectively.

In Vermont, prospective candidates may file for the following office:
  • Vermont’s At-Large Congressional District (one seat)
In Wyoming, prospective candidates may file for the following offices:
  • U.S. Senate (one seat)
  • Wyoming’s At-Large Congressional District (one seat)

The primary in Vermont is scheduled for August 11, and the primary in Wyoming is scheduled for August 18. The general election in both states is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Vermont and Wyoming’s major-party congressional filing deadlines are the 39th and 40th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next major-party congressional filing deadlines are on June 1 in Alaska, Kansas, and Wisconsin.

Entering the 2020 election, the Democratic Party holds the At-Large Congressional District seat from Vermont, and the Republican Party holds the At-Large Congressional District seat from Wyoming.

The U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 33 out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats.

The U.S. House has 233 Democrats, 198 Republicans, and one Libertarian. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Oregon congressional primary to take place on May 19

The congressional primary in Oregon will be held on May 19. The filing deadline to run passed on March 10. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:

• U.S. Senate (one seat)
• U.S. House District 1
• U.S. House District 2
• U.S. House District 3
• U.S. House District 4
• U.S. House District 5

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Oregon’s congressional primary is the 10th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. Idaho’s congressional primary was also initially scheduled to be held on May 19, but that primary was postponed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The next primary is scheduled for June 2, 2020.

Heading into the November 3 election, the Democratic Party holds four of the five congressional seats from Oregon.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. House has 233 Democrats and 196 Republicans, with one Libertarian member and five vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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SCOTUS grants review in two cases for October Term 2020-2021

On May 4, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) accepted two cases to its merits docket for its upcoming term scheduled to begin on October 5, 2020. The cases have not yet been set for argument.

Edwards v. Vannoy came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and concerns the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Ramos v. Louisiana.
  • The case: A non-unanimous jury found Thedrick Edwards guilty of five counts of armed robbery, one count of attempted armed robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated rape. Edwards was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment on each armed robbery count and to life imprisonment on the aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape counts. Edwards appealed his conviction and sentence, which was denied in state and federal court. He then filed a petition for habeas corpus with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The district court denied Edwards’ claim. Edwards appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which refused to issue a certificate of appealability.
  • The issue: Whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ramos v. Louisiana (2020) applies retroactively to cases on federal collateral review. In Ramos v. Louisiana, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 6th Amendment’s right to a unanimous jury verdict to support a conviction applies in both federal and state courts.
CIC Services v. Internal Revenue Service came on a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and concerns the Anti-Injunction Act, a federal law that bars lawsuits to stop the assessment or collection of taxes.
  • The case: In 2004, Congress authorized the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify and gather details about potential tax shelters. The IRS set up requirements regarding transactions that are required to be reported to the IRS. In 2016, the IRS published a notice identifying certain “micro-captive transactions” as “transactions of interest,” under the umbrella of reportable transactions. In 2017, risk management consulting firm CIC Services challenged the updated requirements in district court as being beyond the scope of the IRS’ authority and sought to stop the notice’s enforcement. The IRS moved for the complaint’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court granted the defendant’s motion. On appeal, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal.
  • The issue: “Whether the Anti-Injunction Act’s bar on lawsuits for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of taxes also bars challenges to unlawful regulatory mandates issued by administrative agencies that are not taxes.”

As of May 4, 2020, the court had agreed to hear 10 cases during its 2020-2021 term.



South Dakota statewide filing deadline passes for independent candidates

On April 28, the independent filing deadline passed to run for elected office in South Dakota. Candidates filed for the following offices:

  • South Dakota State Senate District 25
  • South Dakota State Senate District 35
  • South Dakota House of Representatives District 17
  • South Dakota House of Representatives District 29

Any candidate for nonjudicial public office who is not nominated by a primary election may be nominated as an independent candidate by filing with the South Dakota Secretary of State or county auditor. Filing must be completed no earlier than 8 a.m. on January 1 and no later than 5 p.m. on the last Tuesday of April prior to the election.

An independent candidate’s certificate of nomination must be signed by registered voters within the applicable district or political subdivision. Any candidate for office in the state legislature must be a resident of the district for which he or she is a candidate.

All 35 state Senate seats are up for election in 2020, as are all 70 state House seats. South Dakota state senators and state representatives serve two-year terms, with all seats up for election every two years. South Dakota holds elections for its legislature in even-numbered years.

The primary is scheduled for June 2, 2020, and a primary runoff is scheduled for August 11, 2020. The general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Entering the 2020 election, the South Dakota State Legislature has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. As of April 29, 2020, there are 21 Republican trifectas, 15 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.



SCOTUS issues opinions in cases concerning immigration, trademark use, and the Clean Water Act (CWA)

On April 23, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued rulings in three cases argued during its October Term 2019-2020.

1. Barton v. Barr, a case that concerned immigration law, originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and was argued on November 4, 2019.

  • The issue: “Whether a lawfully admitted permanent resident who is not seeking admission to the United States can be “render[ed] … inadmissible” for the purposes of the stop-time rule, 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(d)(l).”
  • The outcome: The court affirmed the decision of the 11th Circuit in a 5-4 ruling, holding that for purposes of cancellation-of-removal eligibility, a §1182(a)(2) offense committed during the initial seven years of residence does not need to be one of the offenses of removal

2. County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, a case that concerned the Clean Water Act (CWA), originated from the 9th Circuit and was argued on November 6, 2019.

  • The issue: “Whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater.”
  • The outcome: The court vacated and remanded the 9th Circuit’s decision in a 6-3 ruling. The court held “a permit is required when there is a discharge from a point source directly into navigable waters or when there is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge.” In the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the 9th Circuit’s holding was too broad, while the petitioner’s argument was too narrow.

3. Romag Fasteners v. Fossil, a case that concerned trademark law, originated in the Federal Circuit and was argued on January 14, 2020.

  • The issue: “Whether, under section 35 of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1117(a), willful infringement is a prerequisite for an award of an infringer’s profits for a violation of section 43(a), id. § 1125(a).”
  • The outcome: The court vacated and remanded the decision of the Federal Circuit in a 9-0 ruling, holding that a plaintiff in a trademark infringement suit is not required to show that a defendant willfully infringed the plaintiff’s trademark as a pre-condition to a profits award.

As of April 23, 2020, the court had issued decisions in 26 cases this term. Between 2007 and 2018, SCOTUS released opinions in 924 cases, averaging between 70 and 90 cases per year.

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