Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Surprising" facts about the Supreme Court's current term

The New York Times' Supreme Court reporter, Linda Greenhouse, points out:

1. "In decisions that have split the court in any direction, Justices [Antonin] Scalia and [Clarence] Thomas have voted on opposite sides more often than they voted together."

2. "Employees suing companies for civil rights violations have won all three cases decided so far, two of them by votes of 8-0."

3. "By wide margins, the court has rejected arguments put forward by corporate defendants in several cases."

The sample size here is tiny:

What accounts for the topsy-turvy world of the Supreme Court’s 2010-2011 term?

One answer might be that the deviation from expected behavior is just an illusion, based on a small number of decisions that might not prove representative of the term as a whole. The court has decided 25 cases so far . . . .

Still, when the court decides so few cases — 73 last year — 25 decisions count for something.
Greenhouse admits:
At the very least, this preliminary snapshot reminds those of us (and I include myself) who think they have taken the court’s measure that assumptions are a poor substitute for close observation.