The current US Supreme Court term ends tomorrow and the decision we have been waiting for in the health care case will be released. The Court will issue opinions starting at 10 am EDT, with the health care ruling probably starting around 10:15. The
United States Supreme Court blog (SCOTUS blog) will begin live blogging at 845
am EDT. They expect heavy traffic so you can also try the backup site at http://scotusblog.wpengine.com/.
Veteran Court journalist, Lyle Denniston, will be live blogging as opinions are issued. He has been covering the Supreme Court for fifty-four years. In his recent post, A reader’s guide to health care ruling , he gives tips for reading a Supreme Court opinion.
“Obviously, then, this can be daunting, even for one who has experience in reading Supreme Court opinions, but especially for someone encountering an opinion for the first time. Fortunately for both regular and new readers, there is almost always a very helpful and much shorter discussion of what has been decided, and it comes out with the opinion itself — indeed, it makes up the opening pages of the document. It is sometimes called the “headnote,” but the Court calls it a “syllabus.” Whatever its name, its function is clear: to describe, in dependably accurate terms, what the Court
has decided and how the Justices have voted. (People depend upon it to say what
the Court has decided, but lawyers and lower court judges have to rely upon
what is in the Justices’ opinions, not the headnote rendition, because the
headnote is essentially a tip sheet, not a part of the ruling in any way.)
If the Court rushes out an opinion, it might not have a headnote with it. But, with the health care decision having been under study for three months, there very likely will be a headnote. It will have a quite brief opening section that provides background facts about the controversy, and briefly recites how lower courts ruled on it. The thing to
look for next is the truly vital part of the headnote: it usually begins with the word “Held,” written in italics, followed by a colon. That is supposed to tell, in brief form or in several paragraphs, just what legal conclusion or conclusions were drawn by the controlling number of Justices.”