Virtual Event: Stephen Vladeck


The Shadow Docket:
How the Supreme Court Uses Stealth Rulings
to Amass Power and Undermine the Republic

in conversation with JACK GOLDSMITH


May 30, 2023
6:00 PM ET


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Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store welcomes STEPHEN VLADECK—Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law and CNN's Supreme Court Analyst—for a discussion of his new book The Shadow Docket: How the Supreme Court Uses Stealth Rulings to Amass Power and Undermine the Republic. He will be joined in conversation by JACK GOLDSMITH—Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. 

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About The Shadow Docket

The Supreme Court has always had the authority to issue emergency rulings in exceptional circumstances. But since 2017, the Court has dramatically expanded its use of the behind-the-scenes “shadow docket,” regularly making decisions that affect millions of Americans without public hearings and without explanation, through cryptic late-night rulings that leave lawyers—and citizens—scrambling.

The Court’s conservative majority has used the shadow docket to green-light restrictive voting laws and bans on abortion, and to curtail immigration and COVID vaccine mandates. But Americans of all political stripes should be worried about what the shadow docket portends for the rule of law, argues Supreme Court expert Stephen Vladeck. In this rigorous yet accessible book, he issues an urgent call to bring the Court back into the light.

Praise for The Shadow Docket

“In The Shadow Docket, Steve Vladeck tells an urgent story about an arcane aspect of American law that has momentous implications for a host of pressing political issues—and for the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court itself. In elegant, accessible prose, Vladeck exposes the degree to which significant battles, from abortion to immigration, are being adjudicated behind closed doors, in unseen, unsigned, unexplained decisions. This is a powerful work of argument and explication, and a call for a return to transparency and accountability in the decision making of our highest court.” ―Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain

"The Supreme Court's polling numbers and legitimacy have taken a nosedive in recent years, but the cases it hands down are only part of the problem. The stuff that happens in the shadows is equally alarming, and nobody has been better at explaining these shadow matters than Steve Vladeck. Tackling intricate procedural questions, Vladeck makes absolutely plain that—to repurpose an old adage—procedure isn't just the handmaid of justice, it's now her lord and master. We ignore what happens in the shadows at our peril." ―Dahlia Lithwick, author of Lady Justice

“The best thing you can say about a Supreme Court book is that you learned something, and I learned a ton. Vladeck cogently describes the perhaps well-meant but insidious way that the Supreme Court, in liberal as well as conservative times, slowly eroded the legal levers that prevented the Court from engineering its own agenda.” ―Nina Totenberg, award-winning legal affairs correspondent, NPR

Jack Goldsmith
Jack Goldsmith

Jack Goldsmith

Jack Goldsmith is the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and co-founder of Lawfare. He teaches and writes about presidential power, national security law, federal courts, conflict of laws, international law, and internet law.

Stephen Vladeck
Stephen Vladeck

Stephen Vladeck

Stephen Vladeck holds the Charles Alan Wright Chair in Federal Courts at the University of Texas School of Law. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Slate. He has argued before the Supreme Court and has been CNN's Supreme Court Analyst since 2013. Vladeck lives in Austin, Texas.

Photo credit: Brian Birzer

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