The New SCOTUS Subdivisions of Ideology

The New SCOTUS Subdivisions of Ideology
November 2, 2021 Comments Off on The New SCOTUS Subdivisions of Ideology Local Politics, RNHA News Articles Skyler Blalock

Early July of 2021 presented the public with plenty of court rulings that displayed a political shift following Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment. The more conservative-minded wing of the Supreme Court shows signs of fracturing, resulting in the formation of three voting blocs from the nine-seat Court. Those being liberal, centrist-conservative, and conservative blocs.

The appointment of Justice Barret to succeed the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was controversial for various reasons, from Senate procedure, to questions on personal convictions, but the most significant was that of the newly emerged 6-3 Conservative court. One may presume, given the ideological imbalance, that the conservatives would face a little challenge with cases going forward, but this would be an oversimplification of the current developments.

Given that the 2021 Supreme Court holds a conservative majority, members appointed by their respective presidents for imbuing certain enjoyable conservative principles for interpreting cases, it will be important to distinguish the recent development of an apparent division forming between the Court’s more moderate members, such as Chief Justice John Glover Roberts Jr., Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Justice Barrett, from that of the members that are predictably conservative, such as Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr., and Neil M. Gorsuch.

The developments found, for October term 2020 in divided cases, that the conservative-centrist members such as Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kavanaugh, and Justice Barrett, voted between “91-95%” of the time in the majority, and for divided cases, these same members of the court voted between “84-95%” of the time in the majority. This contrasts with the more conservative members of the court, those being Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, who all voted between “81-91%” of the time on close cases, and on divided cases “66-82%” of the time with the majority.

To further distinguish the difference between the conservative-centrists and conservatives, it is important to contrast a case where they both parted ways on an issue that remains as one of the leading subjects of importance for conservative politics. For example, in a recent and significant unanimously decided case, Fulton v. City of Philadelphia (19-123), the Supreme Court ruled narrowly in the favor of Catholic Social Services (CSS) to permit their continuing practice of rejecting parents who were homosexual from fostering CSS children. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett felt that there was no reason to go any further than ruling in the favor of CSS given that the City of Philadelphia was unable to satisfy strict scrutiny, and concluded the case with that. This contravenes what Justice Alito felt of the decision of the Court as being “a wisp of a decision that leaves religious liberty in a confused and vulnerable state”, a show of dissatisfaction with the majority’s narrow ruling, a frustration shared by Justices Thomas and Gorsuch.

Aside from some recent trends in voting history, there is a historical evolution amongst newly appointed conservative justices on the Court to move either towards the center or center-left of the Court. The likely reason for this gradual drift may be due to the judiciary’s protective layer of partisan insulation meant to separate it from that of the political branches of government and the public’s whims, thus allowing the justices to be fearless about how their political affiliation may have an effect on their decisions. Notable justices in recent times shifted ideological stances are witnessed with such justices as John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, and Brett M. Kavanaugh, as well as Chief Justices like that of Earl Warren and John Roberts.

There is an applicable metric for these instances and possible future appointments through the Martin-Quinn Score which notes the progression of justices’ adjudicative inclinations on cases that may be perceivably more conservative or liberal in its substance. This ideological measurement, which has composited data on Supreme Court case rulings going as far back as 1937 and utilizes a negative or positive sign for a justice’s level of gradual increase or decrease in liberal-conservative standings, has found that Republican-appointed justices were significantly more likely to move leftward on the political spectrum over their lifetime appointment, dropping five percentage[ points in comparison to that of the half point of their liberal colleagues. The reasons for this change in rulings are certainly innumerable, some may posit, though, that it may be symptomatic of social-political pressures of the perception of the court and the members themselves, personal social progression, historical presence on the Court, domestic and international reputation, or high court bench experience, all of which potentially influences their jurisprudential practices later in life.

With Justices Kavanaugh and Barrett now trekking their unique course on the Court as a part of Chief Justice Roberts’s “project of bipartisan unanimity”, albeit a conservative one, the public may soon find a unique court segmentation between three ideological leanings. Although, it is important to note that this is a fresh court with a new member who is still acclimating to life on the highest court in the country. Nevertheless, these justices’ decisions, both presently and forthcoming, will be important when interpreting the law and perception of the Court throughout the October 2021 term.

About The Author
Skyler Blalock Skyler Dean Blalock is from La Pryor, Texas, from which he graduated from La Pryor High School where he would go on to further his post-secondary education through The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in International Relations and Global Affairs with a minor in Government. In addition to his studies, Mr. Blalock is the current Secretary for the Zavala County Republican Party, as well as serving in the capacity as a Student Consultant for the Vice President of Student Affairs. During high school, Mr. Blalock served in various extracurricular activities throughout his high school, as well as within his community, such as Zavala County Republican Party Intern, Zavala County Republican Party Chairman, NSHSS Texas Ambassador, NSHSS Student Council, NHS Uvalde Relay for Life Committeeman, and U.T. GeoFORCE member. Prospectively, Mr. Blalock aims to go on to law school in an effort to apply the rule of law in society.
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