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Roberts Court Shifts Right, Tipped by Kennedy

Publication Date: 
July 01, 2009
Source: 
The New York Times
Author: 
Adam Liptak

Professor Jeffrey L. Fisher and Lecturer Thomas Goldstein, who teach the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, talked to Adam Liptak about the Court's last Term:

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.

...

“For all the talk about Scalia and Thomas being the most conservative justices on the court, they are the justices most likely in play,” said Jeffrey L. Fisher, a law professor at Stanford who has argued several important criminal cases before the court.