Here are two cases in the “The Supreme Court Is Taking Longer Than Expected” department.

First, Robinson v. Lewis.  It’s been close to five months since the Ninth Circuit asked (pleaded, actually) for an answer to a question of California law that the federal court said was important to federal habeas corpus practice.  The Supreme Court usually decides within 90 days whether to answer a Ninth Circuit question.  Earlier this year, the court took almost four months to decide in another case.  There, the court denied the request but essentially answered the question in its denial order.  Maybe the court will use that same summary-answer device in Robinson and it’s just taking time to craft the denial order.

There’s also People v. Grimes, a death penalty case in which the court granted rehearing, an exceedingly rare occurrence.  The case was argued twice before the court issued the opinion that was vacated by the rehearing order.  Eight months ago, the court asked for supplemental briefing regarding new authorities and said it was then “presently preparing to hear reargument.”  That suggested that the third argument, if not imminent, was at least on the near horizon.  However, the court has already set its January calendar and Grimes is not on it.  There is no “normal” time for reargument after rehearing because rehearing happens so infrequently and, until Grimes, I believe rehearing had not been granted at all since the court began following the 90-day rule for filing its opinions.  The court usually doesn’t schedule argument in a case until at least four justices have tentatively agreed on an opinion.  Also, according to the the court’s Internal Operating Practices and Procedures, after rehearing is granted, the case is reassigned for writing purposes to a different justice if the justice who authored the first opinion can no longer “present the views of the majority.”  It’s thus possible that Grimes has been reassigned — maybe even after the court said it was “presently preparing” for reargument — and that there is still active discussion among the justices about the case’s outcome.