Friday, June 29, 2007


by shamanic

Does everyone remember when John Roberts was hailed as a moderating figure who could effectively bridge the ideological gaps in judicial philosophy on the Supreme Court and lead it like the gentleman scholar he is? I do. (Emily Bazelon at Slate does too. Her piece is worth a read.)

According to SCOTUSblog, this term saw the highest percentage of 5-4 decisions in at least a decade, topping out at around 32%.

Does this indicate that rather than having a leader who can work across the lines of various parties, the Supreme Court is simply more ideologically divided than ever?

I guess only time will tell, but it's worth noting that even Lawrence v. Texas, the case that overruled sodomy laws in America, wasn't a 5-4 decision, and you don't get a lot more hot-button than that.

My hope is that this term simply saw a high rate of split decisions, and future terms will reflect the moderation that Roberts was hailed for. An overwhelming rate of 5-4 decisions suggests to me that some middle path between the partisans hasn't been properly identified.

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