U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court justices become more liberal as they age, statistics blog says

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Many current justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are becoming more liberal as they age, according to an analysis of their votes on cases.

The statics blog FiveThirtyEight looked at ideological scores of Republican- and Democratic-appointed justices since 1937, and found that Republican appointees become more liberal. Democratic appointees also become more liberal, but at a slower pace than Republican appointees.

The blog looked at justices currently on the court, and found that many are moving to the left, including the Democratic appointees. According to the blog: “Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined the court in 1988, has historically had a score solidly to the right of center, but last term he found himself slightly to the left for the first time. Justice Stephen Breyer has drifted from just left of center to solid liberal. Even Justice Antonin Scalia has liberalized somewhat from his extremely conservative positions in the late 1990s.”

The blog notes conservative disenchantment with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who voted twice to uphold the Affordable Care Act. His voting record shows he has “drifted slightly leftward,” the blog says.

In a story published last week, the New York Times reported on a study of Roberts’ voting patterns in the last decade. The chief justice voted a conservative direction 58 percent of the time in the last decade, but in 5-4 cases he voted in a conservative direction 85 percent of the time, making him the most conservative justice in closely divided cases.

FiveThirtyEight cites several possible reasons for the justices’ leftward drift, including the possibility that they are influenced by liberal news coverage, by ideas picked up while overseas, and by greater exposure to a wide range of people. The blog assessed the liberality or conservatism of the justices’ ideology by using the Martin-Quinn scores developed by Kevin M. Quinn, a law professor at UC Berkeley School of Law, and Andrew D. Martin, dean of the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Related article:

ABA Journal: “New Theories of Evolution”

See also:

ABA Journal: “John Roberts marks 10 years as chief justice by taking the long view”

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