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January 1992, Vol. 115, No. 1
F or the second consecutive year, the Supreme Court opened its fall term with only eight justices. The most recent vacancy resulted from Justice Thurgood Marshall's announcement on June 27, 1991, that he was stepping down after having served on the High Court for 24 years. Within days of this announcement, President Bush nominated Judge Clarence Thomas, of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to succeed Justice Marshall. Although Judge Thomas' confirmation hearing proved to be one of the most contentious in history, 52 of the Senate's 100 members voted to confirm him. Judge Thomas was soon sworn into office and joined the Court nearly 1 month into its new term.
The Court's caseload in recent years has declined steadily. For example, litigants argued and submitted 184 cases to the Court as recently as the 1983-84 term.1 By contrast, only 125 cases were argued and submitted last term.2 With this reduced caseload, it is not surprising that the Court's current calendar contains fewer labor cases than in years past. Even so, these cases raise many important issues, including whether nonemployee union members should be allowed to organize workers on company property, whether a city violates its workers' Federal civil rights when it neglects to provide adequate safety training for them, whether a veteran's reemployment rights include the right to take a 3-year leave of absence to serve in the Reserves, and whether a union member can sue his or her union to enforce a provision of the union's constitution.3
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1 Statistical Recap of Supreme Court's Workload During the Last Three Terms, 54 U.S.L.W. 3038 (July 30, 1985). Member of the Court and Congress seemed particularly troubled in the early 1980's by the size of the Court's caseload. See Note, Of High Designs: A Compendium of Proposals to Reduce the Workload of the Supreme Court, 97 Harv. L. Rev. 307 & n.5 (1983). During a single year, for example, 8 of the Court's 9 justices decried that body's workload, while Congress considered legislation to control it. Id.
2 Statistical Recap of Supreme Court's Workload During the Last Three Terms, 60 U.S.L.W. 3056 (July 23, 1991).
3 Because the Court's 1991-92 calendar is not full, more cases will be added as the term progresses. Some of these, no doubt, will raise labor issues.
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