The following are some interesting takes from the most recent Supreme Court term that ended yesterday. Some important decisions were handed down including four that strengthened Constitutional protections under the Fourth Amendment. Throw in the two Free Speech decisions- NIFLA and Janus– and the Court, in 5-4 cases in both instances- made a stand against compelled speech on the part of the government in the former and organized labor in the latter. And let us not forget the sort-of victory in the gay wedding cake case.
Along the way, the Court allowed states to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases and also allowed states to have sports betting. And of course, Trump’s travel ban was ruled legal by the Court. NIFLA, Janus, and Trump vs. Hawaii, in addition to the punt on partisan gerrymandering cases have the Left’s collective heads exploding. So, all-in-all, not a bad term for conservative ideals from the Court this past term.
Now for some interesting facts for a Roberts Court that prides itself on consensus (which is why he likes narrow decisions). This term produced the lowest number of unanimous decisions since 2005. As a percentage of cases decided, this year produced the most 5-4 decisions since 2012 and the highest number since 2005. And now for the SCOTUS 2017 awards ceremony:
The “I Vote With the Chief the Most Award” goes to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The “Liberal Most Conservatives Agree With Award” goes to Justice Elena Kagan.
The “Joined at the Judicial Hip Award” goes to the wise Latina, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The “Hey! Some Conservatives Are Joined at the Judicial Hip Also Award” goes to Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
The “Most Prolific Writer Award” goes to Clarence Thomas who penned a total of 27 opinions.
The “Most Prolific Writer Not Named Clarence Thomas Award” goes to Justice Stephen Breyer who penned 20 opinions on the liberal side.
The “Not Bad For the New Guy Award” goes to Justice Neil Gorsuch who penned five 5-4 decisions this past term. Generally, newer Justices often are not given the task of writing close decisions; they are usually eased into that role over the years.
The “We Lost This Case and I Had to Write the Dissent Award” goes to Justice Stephen Breyer who wrote a total of nine dissenting opinions.
The “Conservative With the Most Dissenting Opinions Award” goes to… IT’S A TIE between Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas with six dissenting opinions apiece.
The “…And Another Thing Award” for most concurring opinions goes to Clarence Thomas with 14.
The “We Liberals Also Have Extra Things to Say Award” goes to Sonia Sotomayor with seven concurring opinions.
The ” I Wonder Who the New Guy (Gorsuch) Agreed With Most This Year Award” goes to… Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The “Circuit Court With the Most Reversed Decisions Award” goes to the Ninth Circuit which maintains its dubious honor.
The “Circuit Court With the Most Reversals on a Percentage Basis (with a minimum of 4 cases before SCOTUS) Award” goes to the Sixth Circuit which had all four of its decisions reversed for a winning record of 0%!
The “Circuit Court SCOTUS Affirms the Most on a Percentage Basis Award” goes to both the Second and the Seventh Circuits with a 50% affirmation rate.
The “Gee, They Ask a Lot of Questions Award” (formerly known as the Grand Inquisitor Award) goes to the wise Latina, Sonia Sotomayor.
The “Gee, For a Conservative They Ask A Lot of Questions Award” (formerly known as the Intelligent Grand Inquisitor Award) goes to John Roberts who barely nudged out Neil Gorsuch.
The “Boy, They’re Rude For Asking the First Question Award” goes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The “Oral Argument Mute Award” goes to yet again Clarence Thomas who asked exactly ZERO questions again this term.
The “Type of Case Most Decided Award” goes to the category of criminal procedure which includes things like statutory interpretation, sentencing guidelines, jurisdictional disputes and the appeals process.
The “Most Litigated Amendment Award” goes the Fourth Amendment.
Overall, if we include Kennedy and Roberts among the conservatives (a point of contention well recognized), that five Justice bloc held together 70.7% of the time over the past three terms (excluding the presence of Scalia) and 72.8% of the time this term.
However, the four member liberal bloc, over the past three terms has held together 79.1% of the time, but a whopping 88% of the time this past term. It appears the heels are digging in on the Left side of the Court.
This past term saw the lowest number of cases decided since Roberts became Chief Justice. In fact, at least three cases that I can remember that were granted were later dismissed by the Court, some after oral argument.