Does it matter when the Supreme Court italicizes a word in an opinion?

October 13th, 2010

Today during oral arguments in Skinner v. Switzer, Chief Justice Roberts inquired about the meaning of the phrase “necessarily implies” in Heck v. Humphrey and several other cases. To reiterate how important the word “necessary” is, counsel argued that the Supreme Court italicized it twice in the same¬†paragraph.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The critical formulation in Heck necessarily implies — is a little difficult. I mean, the adverb points one way and the verb points the other. And how — “necessarily implies” strikes me as a little less conclusive than you seem to think.

MR. OWEN: I think if that word were in¬†isolation, Your Honor, there might be more uncertainty about what “implies” means. But if the Court looks at the cases — looks at Prieser, looks at Heck, looks at Edwards, looks at Nelson, looks at Hill — what you’ll see is the word “necessarily” is in all those cases. And, in fact, in Hill — or maybe it was Nelson; one of the two Florida cases — the court italicizes it twice in the same paragraph. And –
Does this really matter?