Justice never sleeps, even when the Supreme Court is down a member.
After the death of Antonin Scalia in February, commentators predicted that the remaining eight justices would be stymied by deadlock. Yet a review of more than 60 recent decisions shows that only a handful have resulted in ties.
Consider the math: When the Supreme Court has nine members, it hands down close-call votes of 5 to 4 about 20 percent of the time. So if a justice were randomly removed, then a little more than half of those cases would be likely to end in stalemates.
But that's not what is happening now or with previous even-numbered courts. Only about 5 percent of the cases decided by courts with an even number of justices since the 1940s have ended in ties, and today's court is close to that number at about 7 percent, according to CNBC's analysis. That's about half of what would be expected.
The evidence suggests that the remaining justices can adjust to avoid a 4-4 split decision, which can muddy the legal waters and is sometimes considered an embarrassment for the court. Justices can, for example, decide to compromise on narrower decisions that they all agree upon rather than fighting over broader issues.
Today's court is often described as being more ideologically divided than past courts, but in the face of an even number of seats it has still managed to return about the same percentage of tied cases as the earlier Rehnquist court.