It’s Kennedy’s Court

So says UC Irvine School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky about the U. S. Supreme Court in his front-page piece in this month’s California Bar Journal.

Simply put, on issues that are defined by ideology, the conservative position prevails in the Roberts Court except when Justice Kennedy joins with Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Occasionally this term, Justice Stevens or Justice Breyer joined with the five most conservative justices to create a 6-3 or 7-2 vote for a conservative result. But never did one of the four most conservative justices — Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito — vote for a more liberal result in a case defined by ideology. The bottom line is that when the Court is divided 5-4 on issues where there are clear liberal and conservative positions, Justice Kennedy is always the swing vote.

Dean Chemerinsky never defines what constitutes an issued defined by “ideology.” I’m wondering . . . are there any that aren’t?

In his wrap up of the court’s year, I found this to be Chemerinsky’s most interesting observation:

[I]n some areas of criminal procedure — especially sentencing and the Confrontation Clauses — ideology does not predict outcomes. The conservatives on the Court, such as Justice Scalia, have taken the lead in these areas in expanding the rights of criminal defendants.

Maybe “law & order conservative” means something different than the sense with which it is usually used.

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One Comment

  1. The Supreme Court is often much more unpredictable than presidents or Congressmen would like them to be, whether it’s Justice Kennedy, Justice Breyer or former Justice O’Conner. Throughout history, Supreme Court justices have surprised America with their collective stances on a variety of issues.

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