For an institution that takes great pride in following various norms and conventions, the Supreme Court of the United States is notorious for departing from those very norms and conventions when it sees fit or when the circumstances seem to necessitate it. Some incursions occur on a case-by-case basis: "The Rule of Four," dictating that the Court will grant review only to those certiorari petitions that obtain positive votes from four Court members, usually holds but sometimes does not; the principle of stare decisis, declaring that past decisions should guide future ones, appears as a rationale in many opinions but certainly not all. Other departures, once they have occurred, have had more lasting effects. The demise of the norm of consensus, under which the justices rarely made public their private disagreements, gave way to the dissent. Similarly, the junior vote rule, under which the newest member of the Court voted first at Conference, gave way to the norm of seniority, under which the Chief Justice, followed by the Associates in order of seniority, now votes first.
Epstein, Lee and Knight, Jack
"Piercing the Veil: William J. Brennan's Account of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke,"
Yale Law & Policy Review:
2, Article 3.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylpr/vol19/iss2/3