The politics of the Supreme Court…

Now that Kavanaugh is confirmed, let’s take another look at ideological balance on the SCOTUS.

Let’s put things in context…

Political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn developed  a measure to calibrate how liberal or conservative SCOTUS justices are … based on their rulings.

As near as I can tell, the measure is uncontested by either ideology.


First, let’s pull some takeaways from the chart…


1) There is a wide spectrum of ideologies …  Thomas is the most extreme … but Ginsburg and Sotomayer are almost as extreme … and there are 2 of them (not just one) hanging out as far liberal.

2) Kagan and Breyer are almost equally liberal as Alito and and Gorsuch are conservative.  They are slightly more centrist than their more extreme colleagues … and  the pairs essentially cancel each other out.

3) Justices tend to become more liberal with tenure … Note the downward slopes for  Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsberg and Sotomayer.  Even Scalia (the discontinuous line close to Alito’s) mellowed towards the center over time.

4) Kennedy has been ballyhooed as the “swing voter” … close to the political center … though tipping from slightly conservative to slightly liberal in recent years.

5) Chief Justice Roberts has trended more liberal recently … much to the disappointment of many  conservatives … and now rests very near the political center.

6) Kavanaugh’s projected score is roughly comparable to Gorsuch and Alito … less conservative than Thomas …  and less conservative than Ginsberg and Sotomayer are liberal.


So, what?

Roberts will take on a more pronounced role as a tie-breaker …. while he trend toward more liberal rulings may upset conservatives, it should relax hyper-ventilating Dems … especially since he’s now firmly planted in the political center.

Yes, Kavanaugh (replacing Kennedy) will move the court to the right … but, Kavanaugh’s not nearly as conservative as Thomas … and, many suspect that, once on the job, he’ll trend to less conservative positions (ala Roberts and Kennedy).

Keep in mind that Kavanaugh clerked for Kennedy and idolizes him … and that Kavanaugh and Merrick Garland concurred on 90% of their joint cases (100% of “hot button cases”).


My conclusion: Kavanaugh is likely to disappoint conservatives more often than liberals.

Time will tell…


Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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