In 1972, the Supreme Court released what appears on its face to be one of the simplest opinions in its history. That decision, Baker v. Nelson, read, in its entirety: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.” That’s it. Eleven straightforward words. But, as is often the case in the law, great complexity lurks under the surface, for this terse order has been cited by no fewer than sixty-two judicial opinions and 314 secondary sources. This essay explores the surprising influence of Baker v. Nelson and ultimately concludes that, in future, the Supreme Court should refrain from issuing such summary opinions.
Jonah J. Horwitz, When Too Little Is Too Much: Why the Supreme Court Should Either Explain Its Opinions or Keep Them to Itself, 98 Minn. L. Rev. Headnotes 1 (2013).