In a sua sponte order that puzzled even veteran observers, the Supreme Court has raised the risk factor on a case from minor impact to major import.

The surprising Nov. 19 order enlarged significantly the constitutional issues in Vermont Agency of Natural Resources v. United States ex rel. Stevens, No. 98-1828. It called into question a long-standing statutory remedy. And it came less than two weeks before the case’s scheduled argument on Nov. 29.

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