Anticipating Windsor and Perry

July 2, 2013

Security guards walk the steps of the Supreme Court before Justice Elena Kagan's investiture ceremony in WashingtonOn Thursday, June 20, the Supreme Court released three decisions, but there were still 11 cases on the Court’s docket to be decided this term, with only one official release date scheduled. Left unresolved were the “big four” cases: a challenge to the constitutionality of the race-conscious admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin, a case addressing the power of Congress to renew the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance requirements, and two cases concerning same-sex marriage.

The marriage cases were likely the most anticipated of the big four. U.S. v. Windsor dealt with a constitutional challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act’s denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples married under state law. Hollingsworth v. Perry involved a challenge to a voter initiative, Proposition 8, that amended California’s Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. These two cases would be released on Wednesday, June 26, and this post, and two that will follow, will say a little bit about them, but also about how Thomson Reuters responded to their release.

But first step back a bit, to the end of March, when the cases were argued in tandem. Not long after, the Legal Editorial Operations team put together a gameplan for processing and enhancing Windsor and Perry. Potential KeyCite treatments were debated under a host of scenarios, since the oral arguments gave momentum to the belief that the Court would resolve the cases on procedural grounds and not reach the merits.  Portions of the synopses were prepared for the cases. And two editors were chosen to write the headnotes: Jaci Sauer and me.

Now step back even further, to last December 7th, when the Court granted certiorari in both cases. Editors on the Supreme Court Actions group wrote articles on each case that laid out the issues involved, the reasoning of the courts below, and the questions presented and arguments made by the petitions for certiorari. These articles were posted to Westlaw that afternoon and sent to various topical databases, including Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Law. The articles were later put into print in the United States Supreme Court Actions newsletter, which is at the front of the advance sheets for the Supreme Court Reporter. They can be found on Westlaw at 12-14-2012 USSCACT 1 and 12-14-2012 USSCACT 2.

Next up: decision day. Stay tuned.