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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who is the Most Conservative Supreme Court of Them All? The Roberts Court Analysis July 25, 2010

Posted by legalethicsemporium in Law, Ethics & Society.
Tags: , , ,

Beyond the talk of judicial activism, there is actually a coding system and analytical tools employed by political scientists to characterize the nature of the Supreme Court at a given point in time.  Having applied these codes to the past five years of Chief Justice Roberts’ tenure, the conclusion is that this Supreme Court is the most conservative one in “living memory.” ( Click here to read the New York Times article that explains this analytical coding in more detail.)

While scholars disagree about the methodology of analysis of the Court, the article mentioned two points of particular interest.  First, it appears that although it is deemed The Roberts Court after the Chief Justice, the most significant variable in the equation is the appointment of the conservative leaning Justice Alito to replace the more liberal Justice O’Connor.  One substitution of ideology seems to have swung the balance to a 5-4, historically significant, right of center perspective.

What is more interesting; however, is that this coding system does not factor public attitude as a variable.   Public opinion reflected in other polls, reported in the same article, appears to indicate that over 30% of Americans believe that the Court is too liberal and just under 50% think that the court is “just  about right.”  On specific issues, polls have shown that the majority of the public is aligned with the Court’s decisions.   Even so there is no shortage of criticism and accusations of (conservative) judicial activism pertaining to the Roberts Court.

So, all of this analysis begs the question: do our laws  mirror society’s values at given point in time? And, who comprises “society” if that is true?  Does “society” equal the majority rule of a democracy?  And if so, how do we protect  the rights of the minority?  Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…..calls for reflection from us all.



1. Ruth - July 25, 2010

Reflecting upon this “conservative court” makes one think that the voices of the country are not being heard either loudly or clearly. Having read the New York Times article early this morning, I began to dispair about where we go from here. I would rather have a Supreme Court that bends one way and the other, rather than one that only travels one route in one direction.

2. Barbara Lanigan - August 3, 2010

Well, of course that is the desirable “path” or direction for the Court (reply to the post of Ruth above) …a mini-reflection of checks and balances…but no one could be surprised at the uber-Conservative nature of this Supreme Court or that the New York Times would find it so. Given the Bush (41 and 43) influence on the Court, and the departure of Judge Stevens, we can look forward anxiously to the confirmation of Elena Kagen for more right and left coast reflection in Washington and some liberal ballast.

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