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How Scalia's Death Could Transform 2016 | Vanity Fair

Supreme Court Web page (www.supremecourtus.gov)

Justices Ranked from more liberal to more conservative. See MQ scores below.
Name State Appointed Law School Prior Religion
Yr Pres
John Paul Stevens Retired Illinois 1975 Ford Northwestern Protestant
Ruth Bader Ginsburg New York 1993 Clinton Harvard Appeals court Jewish
Stephen G. Breyer Massachusetts 1994 Clinton Harvard Appeals court Jewish
Sonia Sotomayor New York 2009 Obama Yale Appeals court Catholic
Elena Kagan New York 2010 Obama Harvard Solicitor General Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy California 1988 Reagan Harvard Catholic
John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice Maryland 2005 Bush, G. W. Harvard Appeals court Catholic
Samuel Alito New Jersey 2006 Bush, G. W. Yale Appeals court Catholic
Antonin Scalia (deceased) Virginia 1986 Reagan Harvard Appeals court Catholic
Clarence Thomas Georgia 1991 Bush, G. H. W. Yale Appeals court Catholic
Listed by MQ "Martin-Quinn" scores developed by political scientists Andrew Martin (Washington University) and Kevin Quinn (UC Berkeley School of Law) to measure "the relative location of each U.S. Supreme Court justice on an ideological continuum."
Note: Justice Sotomayor was new and didn't have a score when we last updated this, so she was placed where general opinion thought she would fit.

In an April 18, 2010, NY Times Article, Supreme Court Memo - Why Newer Appointees Offer Fewer Surprises they point out:
"A 2007 study by Professor Segal and three other scholars - Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin and Kevin M. Quinn - found that all but 4 of the 26 justices who have served for at least 10 years since 1937 changed over time. "Twelve moved to the left, seven to the right and three in more exotic ways," the study concluded.

This is less true of recent appointees. Nominees' backgrounds these days often include work for the executive branch in Washington and substantial service on a federal appeals court, so more is know about how they might handle federal issues.

Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Texas, has a theory about why that might be so. "It's the friends factor," he said. Conservatives with established social networks in Washington, he said, are less likely than newcomers to be swayed by the city's relatively liberal political culture. "In the conservative imagination," Professor Driver said, "there is an idea that Republican-appointed justices are worn down by Georgetown dinner parties."

See: Ideological Drift Among Supreme Court Justices: Who, When, And How Important?, by Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, Kevin M. Quinn & Jeffrey A. Segal* at the Northwestern University Law Review

A recent controversial decision was: "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission", (2010):
The court ruled that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, based on the First Amendment.
Majority - Kennedy, joined by Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Thomas.
Dissent - Stevens, joined by Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor
The dissenting justices did support Part IV which upheld the disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements. Thomas did not support Part IV.
Supreme Court Justices Get More Liberal As They Get Older | FiveThirtyEight

A typical justice nominated by a Republican president starts out at age 50 as an Antonin Scalia and retires at age 80 as an Anthony Kennedy. A justice nominated by a Democrat, however, is a lifelong Stephen Breyer.

FiveThirtyEight writer, Oliver Roeder, speculates on the causes of this trend.

  • "To avoid the wrath of the NY Times, particularly reporter and Yale law professor, Linda Greenhouse.
  • Justices may be subject to influences by the Beltway cocktail scene and want to be perceived as reasonable and moderate."
  • "Some sociological research has suggested that people simply get more liberal as they age, relative to their younger selves. This is measured, in this case, as an increase in "tolerance" -- especially of "nontraditional" behaviors, family roles and the like. Pew Research Center has found that the relationship between age and ideology is complex -- different generations age differently, ideologically, because they came of age in different political eras."
  • Reputation - Maya Sen of Harvard told Roeder, "Conservatives wrote some of the most hated opinions in the canon -- e.g., Dred Scott, Plessy, Korematsu. No one remembers the authoring judges kindly. By contrast, liberal opinions like Brown v. Board5 are quite celebrated."
  • A Supreme Court justice is afforded many opportunities for international travel, and foreign ideas may begin to rub off. This could liberalize opinions on issues such as the death penalty, which is all but extinct in Europe.
  • According to Sen, "A Supreme Court justice is afforded many opportunities for international travel, and foreign ideas may begin to rub off. This could liberalize opinions on issues such as the death penalty, which is all but extinct in Europe."

In a broadcast "The Supreme Court, Explained" at On The Media, Greenhouse said it's the justices who come from outside of the Washington influence sphere that change the most.

At The Behavior of Supreme Court Justices When Their Behavior Counts the Most By Geoffrey R. Stone September 2013 he states,
Although Justices Kennedy and O'Connor clearly inclined in a conservative direction, they were far from knee-jerk in their voting. In several important decisions, including Lawrence, Windsor, Grutter, Hamdan and McCreary, one or both of them parted company with their more conservative colleagues. What led Justices Kennedy and O'Connor to vote as they did in these twenty cases is unclear. Unlike the moderately liberal justices, there is no overarching theory that explains why Kennedy and O'Connor were more activist in some cases and more restrained in others. It might be, of course, that their votes were driven by nothing more than their own moderately conservative policy preferences, but one gets more of a sense from their opinions that they were also grappling seriously with the conventional legal sources that are "supposed" to guide judicial decision making.

Source: Measuring Court Preferences, 1950 - 2011: Agendas, Polarity and Heterogeneity, Michael A. Bailey - Department of Government and Public Policy Institute Georgetown University.
This paper is about whether court scoring methods provide valid intertemporal measures. "Intertemporal choice" is an economic term for how decisions at one point in time influence future decisions. eg. Saving now can result in more spending in the future. The paper is over my head, but the chart shows the general liberal-conservative distribution over time. I didn't follow the explanation for the divergence of the MQ scores starting in 2008.
  There have been criticism of the Martin Quinn scores because the case characteristics over time varies.

The court has been mostly conservative except for the Warren Court when Earl Warren served as Chief Justice 1953-1969. Warren was succeeded as Chief Justice by Warren Burger. William O. Douglas and Earl Warren were the liberal mainstays of the court during this time Black and Brennan were liberal but not a consistently as Warren and Douglas.

Source: Supreme Court May Be Most Conservative in Modern History | FiveThirtyEight

Data thru 2015 at How Scalia Compared With Other Justices shows that the median justice (Kennedy) has moved back toward neutral.

Data Source: Martin-Quinn Scores | Berkeley Law

It is interesting that 4 of the 5 most liberal justices were nominated by a Republican, Warren, Marshal and Brennan were nominated by Eisenhower, Stevens by Ford . Douglas was nominated by Roosevelt.

The Supreme Court Compendium: Data, Decisions, and Developments - Lee Epstein, Provost Professor and Rader Family Trustee Chair in Law & Political Science Lee Epstein, Jeffrey A. Segal, Harold J. Spaeth, Thomas G. Walker - Google Books

There have been criticism of the Martin Quinn scores because the case characteristics over time varies.

How Scalia's Death Could Transform 2016 | Vanity Fair
Supreme Court Memo - Why Newer Appointees Offer Fewer Surprises - NYTimes.com
Martin-Quinn Scores : Description
Ideological leanings of U.S. Supreme Court justices - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Biographies (pdf)
Supreme Court Justices Liberalism in Civil Liberties and Economics Cases 1937-1994, Professor Timpone - Ohio St.
Famous Trials and Supreme Court Decisions
The Constitution - Amendments - Major Acts of Congress
Supreme Court at us.gov
The Self-Correcting U.S. Supreme Court, by Bruce A. Desmarais University of North Carolina

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last updated 25 Mar 2010