Reports are calling the current U.S. Supreme Court bench “unpredictable” in its decisions, even after Democrats agonized over the implications of former President Donald Trump’s historic three appointments to the high court during his tenure.
“Out of 32 cases already decided by the court between the months of May and June,” Fox’s Ronn Blitzer said Wednesday, “just three have been the result of 6–3 votes along so-called ideological lines.”
The Journal‘s David Rivkin Jr. and Andrew Grossman made similar observations, writing Thursday: “Of the 65 cases the court reviewed this term, it decided only nine by 6–3 votes along conventional ideological lines, and only three of those could fairly be described as involving hot-button political controversies.
Many on the left had fretted over the potential impact of having six Republican-appointed jurists on the nation’s highest court, even at one point suggesting adding new justices to the bench in hopes of swinging the court’s ideological tilt back toward the left.
“Trump has basically done more than any president has done in a single term since [President Jimmy] Carter to put his stamp on the judiciary,” Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler told the Associated Press in the weeks following Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. She was Trump’s third successful nominee, after Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, Brian Fallon of the left-leaning Demand Justice told the AP that Americans would be “living with the legacy of Donald Trump for decades to come as a result of his judicial appointments.”
It’s a warning that doesn’t seem to have materialized, however.
“The same day the court ruled in favor of ObamaCare, it unanimously held that Philadelphia had violated the First Amendment by decreeing that a Catholic foster-care agency couldn’t operate in the city unless it certified gay couples,” Rivkin and Grossman reported for the Journal Thursday.
A court divided
Another ruling earlier this year saw the judges divided 5–4 on the topic of gerrymandering, NBC News reported. And Trump appointee Kavanaugh sided with “the court’s liberals” in a number of cases, NBC said, including one “allowing iPhone customers to sue Apple over pricing in the App Store” and another “blocking the execution of a Texas death-row inmate after the state refused to let him have his Buddhist priest in the lethal injection chamber.”
In fact, Kavanaugh and fellow Trump appointee Gorsuch “were on opposite sides in almost half of the opinions that were not unanimous,” NBC noted.
Rivkin and Grossman of the Journal argued that the “driving forces” behind the justices’ repeated failure to rule along party lines in the latest term include “doctrinal differences among the court’s six conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts’s preference for incremental rather than sweeping change, and the embrace across ideological lines of the principle that judges should follow the language of the law.” Whether the high court will continue the trend heading into its new term this October remains to be seen.