U.S. Supreme Court
65% of Supreme Court’s Decisions Last Term Were Conservative, in Rightward Trend
Posted Jul 26, 2010 7:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Two databases of U.S. Supreme Court decisions show the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is trending more conservative.
In the last term, the Supreme Court issued conservative decisions 65 percent of the time, the New York Times reports. The rate of conservative decisions was about 55 percent for the courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist.
Burger and Rehnquist were among the court’s six most conservative justices, according to data cited by the Times that stretch back to 1937. The other four are currently on the court: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
But Roberts is not the justice who changed the direction of the court, the story says. He is slightly more liberal than former Chief Justice Rehnquist. Instead, the new justice making the biggest difference is Alito, since he replaced swing voter Sandra Day O’Connor. “Since then, the pace of change has been dizzying,” the story says.
The Times identifies three legal areas apparently affected by O’Connor’s departure. Before she left, she had appeared to side with a defendant whose home was stormed by police officers; when Alito replaced her the court sided with police in an opinion that called into question the exclusionary rule. In two other cases signaling a shift, the Supreme Court without O’Connor upheld a law barring so-called partial-birth abortions and limited the use of race in admissions decisions at public schools.
“If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms,” the Times says. “Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.”