The Atlantic

The Curious Incident of the Court That Denied Cert

The Supreme Court declined to hear a case on Arkansas’s regulation of abortion—a lack of action that may speak volumes.
Source: Joshua Roberts / Reuters

Like the dog in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Silver Blaze,” the Supreme Court on Tuesday did nothing; and many people are curious about the incident. The Court, without explanation and without recorded dissent, denied review in Planned Parenthood of Arkansas v. Jegley, a case testing Arkansas’s extremely strict regulation of abortion induced by means of medically approved drugs (“medical abortion”).

Every first-year law student learns that a denial of review of a lower-court decision means, in terms of the law, exactly nothing. It doesn’t mean that the Court agrees with the opinion below. “A simple order denying a petition for a writ of certiorari is not designed to reflect the Court’s views either as to the merits of the case or as to its jurisdiction,” according to the Tenth Edition of the authoritative Supreme Court Practice and Procedure.

But if you can think about a cert. denial and draw no conclusion at all, you are either superhuman or in a coma. further quotes Justice Robert Jackson: “It is just one of the facts of life that today every lower court does attach importance to denials

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