Court Tips To Right

While it seems like the Democrats have won pretty much everywhere, The New York Times describes how the Supreme Court is tipping more to the right:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. emerged as a canny strategist at the Supreme Court this term, laying the groundwork for bold changes that could take the court to the right even as the recent elections moved the nation to the left.

The court took mainly incremental steps in major cases concerning voting rights, employment discrimination, criminal procedure and campaign finance. But the chief justice’s fingerprints were on all of them, and he left clues that the court is only one decision away from fundamental change in many areas of the law.

Whether he will succeed depends on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the court’s swing vote. And there is reason to think that the chief justice has found a reliable ally when it counts.

“In the important cases, Kennedy ends up on the right,” said Thomas C. Goldstein, a student of the court and the founder of Scotusblog, which has compiled comprehensive statistics on the current term. The two justices agreed 86 percent of the time.

If Judge Sonia Sotomayor is confirmed by the Senate, she will succeed Justice David H. Souter, a liberal who spent almost two decades on the court. Her record on the federal appeals court in New York suggests that her views are largely in sync with those of Justice Souter, though there is some evidence that she will turn out to be more conservative in criminal cases.

SCOTUS Blog believes that it won’t be until after the 2016 elections that the court can change direction:

Later in his term, President Obama will likely replace Justice Stevens with someone else on the left. If he is reelected in 2012, he will replace Justice Ginsburg with someone on the left. Nothing changes.

It isn’t until the election of 2016 at the earliest that there is a real prospect for a significant shift to the left in the Court’s ideology. Actuarially, that election is likely to decide which President appoints the successors to Justices Scalia and Kennedy (both on the right, and both 73 now) and Justice Breyer (on the left, and 70 now). Absent an unfortunate turn of health, between now and the summer of 2017 there is no realistic prospect that the Court will turn back to the left.

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