Sunday, September 23, 2007

Jeffrey Rosen on Justice Stevens

In Sunday's New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen writes, in The Unlikely Liberal:

The last Supreme Court term, which ended in June, was the stormiest in recent memory, with more 5-to-4 decisions split along ideological lines than at any time in the court’s history. In a series of controversial cases about abortion, racial integration in schools, faith-based programs and the death penalty, the court’s four more conservative justices prevailed, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy providing the crucial fifth vote. The four more liberal justices were often moved to dissent in unusually personal and vehement terms. “It is my firm conviction,” Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the case striking down race-based enrollment policies in public schools, “that no Member of the Court that I joined in 1975 would have agreed with today’s decision.” According to the gossip among Supreme Court law clerks, the level of tension among the justices is higher than at any point since Bush v. Gore in 2000.

Not long after beginning his tenure as chief justice in 2005, John G. Roberts Jr. announced publicly that he would try to promote unanimity and collegiality on the court. During his first months on the job, the court managed to achieve his goal, issuing a series of 9-to-0 opinions. But this past term, the court’s first full one with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the brief period of harmony abruptly ended: the percentage of 5-to-4 decisions in which the four liberals were together in dissent rose to 80 percent, up from 55 percent in the 2004 term. For the foreseeable future, the court seems likely to be polarized, with the conservative bloc ascendant and the liberal bloc embattled.

Justice Stevens, the oldest and arguably most liberal justice, now finds himself the leader of the opposition.

Supreme Court | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Jeffrey Rosen on Justice Stevens:


Post a comment