Monday, June 30, 2008

Justice Kennedy's Supreme Court

From Sunday's New York Times, a look at this past term's Supreme Court opinions, and the key role Justice Kennedy continues to play as the "swing" vote.

First, a little chart p/o/r/n (by the way, the NY Times consistently has some of the best chart p/o/r/n out there. :))

(Click to enlarge. Graphic: NY Times)

From the article:
WASHINGTON — It was not last year’s spectacularly divided Supreme Court. The term that ended Thursday lacked last term’s gory display of 5-to-4 decisions, with only 11 cases out of 67 decided this time by one-vote margins.

Neither was it the Roberts court, at least not yet. Although Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was in the majority in 90 percent of the decisions, more than any other member of the court, the more liberal justices won their share of the high-profile cases. The rulings granting the Guantánamo detainees access to federal court and rejecting capital punishment for those who rape children were issued over the dissent of the chief justice.

Nor was it a court in repose in the third year under Chief Justice Roberts. There was, in fact, less unanimity: just under 30 percent of the cases were decided without dissent, compared with just over 40 percent in the term before, and just over half in 2005-6. Over all, the court decided the fewest cases since the 1953-54 term.

In the case for which history may ultimately remember the term — the decision interpreting the Second Amendment to protect the right to own a gun for private use — the court’s conservative bloc won a stunning, if narrow, victory. As in the Guantánamo decision, the crucial vote in the Second Amendment case was cast by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

So if the Roberts court in its third term — one that left a complicated and, to some extent, blurred imprint — were to be summed up in a sound bite, it would be this: It was, once again, Justice Kennedy’s court.
Read the rest here.

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