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Hirono, Colleagues Introduce New Legislation to Shine Light on the Supreme Court’s Shadow Docket

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined 13 of her Senate colleagues in introducing new legislation to bring transparency to decisions on the Supreme Court’s emergency docket, also called the “shadow docket.”

The Shadow Docket Sunlight Act, led by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), requires a written explanation and vote count for any Supreme Court decision concerning injunctive relief, including decisions on the Court’s “shadow docket,” to provide clarity and consistency to judicial decision-making. In addition to requiring the Supreme Court to provide a written explanation for shadow docket decisions and to indicate how each Justice voted on the decision by providing a vote count, the Shadow Docket Sunlight Act also requires the Federal Judicial Center to report to Congress annually on the Court’s compliance with the law.

“The significant increase in the Supreme Court’s use of the shadow docket undermines the integrity of our judicial system, enabling unexplained and inconsistent decisions in highly consequential cases,” said Senator Hirono. “We have a Supreme Court majority that often doesn’t feel the need to explain itself to anyone on anything. Justice Brandeis famously called sunlight the best disinfectant—the Shadow Docket Sunlight Act would shine desperately-needed light on this Court’s frequently rotten decisionmaking.”

In addition to Senators Hirono, Blumenthal, and Schumer, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

The Shadow Docket Sunlight Act is endorsed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Fix the Court, Demand Justice, Stand Up America, and Court Accountability.

The full text of the bill is available here.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Hirono has consistently championed more robust ethics and accountability for the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. In April, Senator Hirono introduced legislation that would curtail judge shopping across the country by codifying the Judicial Conference’s recently-announced policy requiring the random assignment of judges in major federal cases. Last October, Senator Hirono introduced the Supreme Court Biennial Appointments and Term Limits Act, legislation to establish 18-year term limits and regularized appointments for Supreme Court justices. She also voted to advance the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act out of committee. This legislation, which she is an original cosponsor of, would require the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of ethics.