Bloc voting and individual independence at the Supreme Court

From colleague Ilya Shapiro, writing in USA Today: “There were 67 decisions after argument in the term that ended in June. In those cases, the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents voted the same way 51 times, while the five Republican appointees held tight 37 times. And of the 20 cases where the court split 5-4, only seven had the ‘expected’ ideological divide of conservatives over liberals. By the end of the term, each conservative justice had joined the liberals as the deciding vote at least once.”

Meanwhile, those who decry supposed bloc control of Court outcomes are missing a story staring them in the face, namely that not in many decades have a single president’s appointees diverged as sharply from each other as have President Trump’s, with Neil Gorsuch typically taking a more libertarian line and Brett Kavanaugh more centrist as well as more deferential to government power. According to SCOTUS scholar Adam Feldman, “Kavanaugh agreed equally often with Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, at 70 percent apiece.”

One Comment

  • Some Justices turn out to disagree so sharply with the presidents who appointed them that you have to wonder if it was just a mistake, or the Justice actually played the system by hiding his views until he was appointed and could safely rule as he pleased.

    The #1 justice I would place in this category is Anthony Kennedy, who is pretty far left but was appointed by Reagan. Others who may fit it are Sotomayor (quite moderate for an Obama appointee) and Gorsuch (whose failure to uphold Trump’s immigration decisions was quite a disappointment, one that Trump probably didn’t see coming).