Thursday, June 7, 2007

Can Roberts Continue to Forge Consensus Among the Justices?

CJ John Roberts, at last year's Georgetown Law Center commencement ceremonies, said that unanimous opinions are something for which the Court should strive. They "promote clarity and guidance for the lawyers and for the lower courts trying to figure out what the Supreme Court meant," Roberts said. At the time of his commencement address, the Roberts Court had issued 31 unanimous opinions out of 46 total--a record for the modern USSC according to

Yet, this term reflects a different type of demeanor on the Roberts Court. Already three justices have read dissents aloud from the bench. This technique is used rather rarely and signals a growing discomfort among some justices with what may be a shifting ideology on the Court. Stevens read aloud his dissent in a case regarding juror selection and Ginsburg read aloud her dissents in two cases: one dealing with abortion and the other pay equity among men and women.

The Court must still issue two opinions on rather controversial issues: race and freedom of expression. It will be interesting to see if they can reach some common ground. They have done so before in rather controversial cases such as Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and in a more recent case dealing with gay rights, Rumsfeld v. FAIR (2006).

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