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Supreme Court Ends Term On Ideological Edge

Publication Date: 
July 07, 2008
Source: 
National Public Radio
Author: 
Nina Totenberg

NPR's Nina Totenberg interviewed Professor Pam Karlan, Professor Jeff Fisher, and Lecturer in Law Tom Goldstein for their thoughts on the recently completed Supreme Court term.

"This past final week of the Supreme Court's term offered evidence that the court is still sitting on a ideological knife's edge. The bitter divide on the court re-emerged with 5-4 split decisions on gun rights, the death penalty, Guantanamo detainees and campaign finance...

When anchor Nina Totenberg points out that certain cases will be revisited at a later date she defers to Pam Karlan who says:

I expect to see guns cases going back to the Supreme Court. I expect to see punitive damages cases. We're going to see a lot more litigation out of Guantanamo, and we're going to see litigation of voter ID requirements.

About the changed nature of the Supreme Court, advocate Tom Goldstein observes:

The entire conversation is different because there's a voice that's not being heard in the Supreme Court from what would now be regarded as the far left. When you aren't even talking to somebody who has those views, when lawyers aren't even bothering to file those briefs in front of you, those kinds of ideas, much more expansively protective of individual liberty, just aren't on the table anymore. And so we do have hard-fought five-fours in this court, but on a lot of questions the range of possible outcomes is from the middle to the right, and that's all that anybody is talking about.

When Nina Totenberg points out that even the justices currently touted as liberal are far more conservative then their predecessors, Stanford's Jeffrey Fisher puts it another way:

We're going to get cases that are consistently testing the middle of the court, wherever that middle may be.

This term just serves notice yet again to the American public on the eve of an election of just how important the court is.