U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday sharply criticized a federal appeals court for issuing a lengthy opinion that was nonetheless unpublished, which he called a “disturbing aspect” of the case before the high court.
The comment could revive a decades-old debate over so-called “unpublished opinions” of appeals courts, which are sometimes cursory and don’t have precedential value. According to the most recent statistics available, 88 percent of the 37,820 opinions issued by federal appeals courts in 2013 were categorized as “unpublished”—a misnomer because most are actually available through the court that issued them or through online data services.
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