As we all wait for decisions in this Term's major cases, people may wonder what is taking so long and why the big cases are so often the last cases to be announced. The short answer is that the big cases are also those in which there is most likely to be fairly strong disagreement among the justices, meaning that there are likely to be multiple opinions -- and when that happens, the process can take some time. Here's a quick primer on what happens:
Each week of argument, the justices meet in Conference to discuss the cases. They take a tentative vote at that point. After the Conference, the Chief Justice assigns the majority opinion in each case in which he is on the winning side. In any other cases, the senior justice in the majority assigns the opinion.