U.S. Supreme Court

A Trend in the Making? Scalia and Thomas Split More Often than Not in Divided Cases This Term

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If you think that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas always decide cases in lockstep, you need to think again.

Linda Greenhouse, the former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times, took a look at the cases decided so far this term and found that the conventional wisdom isn’t always right. Writing at the Opinionator blog, she detailed several surprises in this term’s statistics, including:

• In divided decisions, Justices Scalia and Thomas were on opposite sides of the case more often than they voted together.

• In divided decisions, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been in the majority in every one. He voted more often with liberal bloc Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor than with Justices Thomas, Scalia or Samuel A. Alito Jr. (Greenhouse cautions that the results are from only nine cases with little ideological spin.)

• Corporate defendants aren’t always winning. They have lost all three cases in which employees asserted civil rights violations. They also lost cases brought be unhappy investors and a family suing over lap-only seatbelts.

Greenhouse notes a couple criminal law cases in which Scalia sided with the defendants and Thomas with the prosecution. They have split in a total of five cases this term. “An aberration or a trend?” she asks. “Watch and wait.”

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