We have noted before the existence of a debate regarding the number of full opinions issued by the Supreme Court of North Carolina. Last Thursday, however, the Court issued a bevy of opinions in advance of its brief summer recess, including 12 full opinions.
Regardless, what the “workload” debate misses is how incredibly efficient the Court is in clearing its docket, even as the Court issues more opinions. The Supreme Court hears oral arguments in nearly every case it decides, consisting mostly of cases in which the Court of Appeals issued a divided opinion or the Supreme Court granted a petition for discretionary review from a unanimous Court of Appeals opinion. The Court heard arguments in each of the first five months of the year, usually for two full days, for a total of at least 37 oral arguments in 2012 so far. By way of comparison, the Court’s website shows only 36 cases orally agued in all of 2011.
The astonishing fact is that the Court has already issued opinions in 31 of these 37 cases. That includes several full opinions issued in June for cases that were argued in May. This does not include the more than 800 other substantive matters decided by the Court this calendar year to date (consisting mostly of rulings on petitions for discretionary review and the like). For example, you can review this summary of such rulings from June.
Wherever you stand on the workload debate, you’ve got to admit that the Court doesn’t appear to be keeping parties waiting for its rulings. We would love to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to drop us a line, or post a comment.