U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Kennedy Is Key

It may be the Roberts court, but it’s Kennedy-controlled.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is the new swing vote, three U.S. Supreme Court experts said yesterday at the ABA Annual Meeting.

“Obviously, Kennedy is the power center,” said Kenneth Starr, a former U.S. solicitor general who is now dean of Pepperdine’s law school. Of the 75 decisions by the court this past term, Kennedy dissented in only two of them, said speakers quoted in an ABA Journal story. Thirty-two percent of the term’s decisions were decided by 5-4 margins.

Starr said Kennedy more often aligns himself with the court’s two new conservatives, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Speakers agreed the court tends to back business, but isn’t as conservative when it considers unilateral executive power. On the whole, the new court is “skeptical of, and even hostile to, executive unilateralism,” Starr said.

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