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Mazzone on the Supreme Court's Workload:
Guestblogging at Concurring Opinions, Jason Mazzone has a post criticizing the workload of the Supreme Court that echoes what I think is a fairly common complaint: the Supreme Court decides too few cases, and the opinions it does issue are too complicated.
  Last term, the Supreme Court issued opinions in just 74 cases. That's pretty pathetic. It means there are many areas of the law that are unsettled or unreviewed; many important issues in which the Supreme Court could helpfully weigh in but it doesn't; many issues that, once decided, will not reach the Court again for decades, if ever.
  A low number of cases does not, however, mean light reading. Many of these 74 cases produced multiple opinions by sub-groups of justices. It's not hard to see why this is true. Divide 74 up among nine justices and 30-plus law clerks and the temptation to write separately is irresistible.
  Most of the 74 opinions are also lengthy and convoluted, larded with unnecessary detail and footnotes, and containing inappropriate swipes at the work of the other justices. As a result, most opinions are inaccessible to non-specialists. It is a rare delight these days to get an opinion that crisply and simply sets out the decision of a unanimous Court. Were it not for people like Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, skillfully decoding the justices' language, the general public would have no idea what the Court was doing.
  I look at the Supreme Court's workload somewhat differently. First, I think it's probably wrong to think that more Supreme Court decisions means more settled law. If anything, I think the opposite is probably true: lots of new Supreme Court cases in a field probably tends to unsettle the law rather than settle it.

  Second, I'm not sure how much we should value the aesthetic "delight" of reading "an opinion that crisply and simply sets out the decision of a unanimous Court." I assume Mazzone is referring to the reasoning of Court opinions, rather than their bottom-line holdings. If so, it seems worth noting that very few people read Supreme Court opinions, and extremely few for their reasoning alone, and I don't know how many people in that group place a particular value on crispness and simplicity. In my experience, most readers value whether reasoning is persuasive, and different people find different kinds of opinions persuasive.

  Finally, it's hard to assess whether the Court should take more cases in the abstract — that is, without considering what kinds of cases the Court should grant. Should the Court hear lots of patent cases? Revisit the Warren Court's criminal procedure revolution? Decide to hear every preemption case that comes over the transom? Should the Court really start rethinking its approach to ERISA? Should the Justices start taking the Third Amendment seriously? It's hard to know whether the Court should start granting more cases without a relatively specific answer to what kinds of cases the Court should grant.

  UPDATE: Michael Cernovich offers some additional thoughts.
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