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Supreme Court Has A Term To Remember

Publication Date: 
July 06, 2012
Source: 
National Public Radio
Author: 
Nina Totenberg

Professors Michael McConnell and Pam Karlan and lecturer Tom Goldstein discuss the term’s high profile cases, Chief Justice Roberts' “masterful decision” and the “unprecedented leak from the court."

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have fled Washington, leaving in their wake a storm of historic headlines. In the last 10 days alone, the high court upheld the Obama health care law, struck down much of the Arizona immigration law and ruled unconstitutional mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in Malta, a place that, as he pointed out, is "an impregnable island fortress." He puckishly observed that it "seemed like a good idea" to go there after the tumultuous end of the Supreme Court term.

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"If what you care about is constitutional principle, then this was really a masterful decision," says Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell.

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Stanford professor Pam Karlan, also a former Supreme Court law clerk, is more blunt.

"[The leak] really was an act of extraordinary rage and destructiveness on the part of the right-hand side of the court," she says.

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"You can't take one term in isolation," warns Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog, the leading Supreme Court blog. "The arc of the law is solidly on the right. ... Anyone who thinks that John Roberts has now come out of the closet as his true liberal self is severely misguided. We have a track record here. He's a solidly conservative justice."

Goldstein notes that next term is likely to add up to a very different result. The issues coming up are: the voting rights law, affirmative action, U.S. lawsuits involving human rights abuses abroad, and gay marriage. Those are questions on which at least four justices — and in some cases five — are on record as hostile to the left.