Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Supreme moderation

The New York Times has a big rundown on the latest Supreme Court session with a great graphic showing how all the judges voted on 13 major cases. The first thing that jumps out at you is that Sandra Day O'Connor was on the winning side of all but one of the decisions, demonstrating in my opinion that she, and not William Rehnquist, is the de facto chief justice on the court.
However, it is also noteworthy that Rehnquist - who normally forms part of the far-right troika on the court along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas - broke away from the conservative side on four cases, as did Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Here is the NYTimes breakdown on all of the contested cases (41) decided during this term:

"The voting patterns this term gave Justice Scalia ample cause for disaffection. Thirty of 71 cases decided by published opinions were unanimous, leaving 41 contested cases. In these, Justice Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the court's most frequent dissenters, with 16 and 21 dissenting votes respectively. This was a change from recent terms, when Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's most liberal member, was consistently the most frequent dissenter.

"Justice Stevens dissented 15 times this term as did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The fewest dissenting votes, as usual, were cast by Justice O'Connor, with eight, followed by Chief Justice Rehnquist, with nine - making the indisputably conservative chief justice appear almost a centrist in the court's current spectrum."

William Rehnquist turning into a moderate after all these years. Imagine that! I guess wisdom really does improve with age.

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