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Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly

Abstract

This Article, the twenty-first in a series, tabulates and analyzes the voting behavior of the United States Supreme Court during the 2006 Term. The analysis is designed to measure whether individual Justices and the Court as a whole are voting more "conservatively," more "liberally," or about the same when compared with past Terms.

The voting patterns tabulated by this Article reveal a Court in transition. The generally consistent conservative voting patterns of Chief Justice Rehnquist have been replaced with several surprisingly liberal voting patterns tallied by Chief Justice John Roberts. As a result, ideological bias demonstrates a significantly wider "gap" between the conservative and liberal wings of the Court than in the recent past. The overall-all conservative impact of Justice Alito, however, is tempered by the fact that (as with the new Chief Justice) he demonstrated fairly consistent liberal voting behavior.

The ideological posture of the Court--considered as a whole-may be difficult to reckon, and research indicates that the Court appears to be moving in a moderately conservative direction. And the question for the future is whether the conservative bloc (led by Justice Kennedy in the decision of swing-vote cases) will hold as new appointees are named to the Court. While the research in this Article may suggest that the Court, viewed as a whole, may be "voting together" somewhat more than in the recent past, the voting patterns continue to show a Court that (in contested cases) continues to be polarized into five-Member conservative and four-Member liberal blocs. A change in the ideological orientation of only a single Justice, in such circumstances, can dramatically impact the outcome across the entire range of issues examined by this Article.

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