The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Surprisingly Frequently Unanimous Supreme Court

Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett poses during a group photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Reuters)

A lot of the coverage of the Supreme Court over the past year has warned of an intense and sinister right-wing turn, and how justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan would be outvoted by an extreme, radical conservative majority marching in lockstep . . .

FiveThirtyEight: How A Conservative 6-3 Majority Would Reshape The Supreme Court

Jen Rubin: How to outfox an activist, right-wing Supreme Court

CNN: How Amy Coney Barrett has changed the Supreme Court in ways Kavanaugh hasn’t

And yet, here we are in 2021, the first term with Amy Coney Barrett weighing in as a justice, and . . . the Court is somehow significantly more unified than it has been in recent years.

The nine justices have charted a surprising course down the middle in 2021, handing down more unanimous opinions than any time in at least the last seven years.

An ABC News analysis found 67 percent of the court’s opinions in cases argued during the term that ends this month have been unanimous or near-unanimous with just one justice dissenting.

That compares to just 46 percent of unanimous or near-unanimous decisions during the 2019 term and the 48 percent average unanimous decision rate of the past decade, according to SCOTUSblog.

At best, this is evidence of a tired groupthink and a habit of jumping to conclusions among the reporters and commentators who follow the Supreme Court. But it’s more likely that these commentators knew that the Democratic Party’s agenda is helped most by repeated contentions that Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Barrett are ideological maniacs, knew that it wasn’t an accurate characterization of those justices, and repeated the mantras anyway . . . until they bought into their own spin and simply couldn’t conceive of a scenario in which these new justices — bright, articulate, and selected in part because of their ability to construct arguments that might persuade their colleagues — could help create a less intensely divided Court.


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