First, in 1804 Justice Chase delivered a one-sentence seriatim opinion
concurring in the judgment in Head & Amory v Providence Insurance Co.
He abolished the seriatim opinion
and in his first years wrote all the opinions himself, bludgeoning and charming his colleagues into unanimity.
Part I traces the origin and evolution of the practice of delivering opinions under the name of a particular Justice from the pre-John Marshall era of seriatim opinion
delivery to the modern era of numerous separately authored concurrences and dissents.
The order of reverse seniority in which seriatim opinions
appeared, when coupled with the fact that cases in which the Justices issued separate opinions almost invariably concluded with a "By the Court" dispositional paragraph, suggests that seniority was treated as subtly increasing the weight of a seriatim opinion
19) Most cases were ultimately determined by intermediate appellate courts, including the Exchequer Chamber, the Court of Common Pleas, and the King's Bench, which regularly issued seriatim opinions
that were transcribed by reporters.
43) Seriatim opinions
require state courts to puzzle out the meaning of each case, making their task more difficult when performed in good faith while giving more room for manoeuvre to state judges seeking to minimize the constraint imposed by the Court's decisions.
While Chief Justice Marshall persuaded his colleagues that the Court should abandon its practice of seriatim opinions
and speak with a single voice, (268) Justices started to dissent at increased rates, starting in the 1930s and accelerating in the 1950s.
13) In many cases, there were no official statements of the Court's reasoning at all, (14) and, where we do have seriatim opinions
, they represent each Justice's comments on the case--usually brief ones, as far as we can tell.
The English judiciary has a tradition of seriatim opinions
to decide a case in which each judge offers his or her own opinion.
51) Chief Justice Marshall bolstered the Court's authority by eliminating its practice of issuing seriatim opinions
, and instituting a new practice of announcing the Court's judgment in a single opinion of the Court.
power to require the justices to file seriatim opinions
in all cases.
The actual origin of the Supreme Court's seriatim practice is something of a mystery--perhaps the Court was following the model of some colonial or state courts--but in any event, it is obvious that the use of seriatim opinions
limited the Chief Justice's ability to take the Court in any particular direction.