Justices grapple on handling precedents

published in The Journal Record | July 5, 2007

Litigator Mark Spencer was interviewed by Journal Record reporter Marie Price for a wrap-up story about the decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court this term.

“It was an extraordinary term for the conservatives and a frustrating term for the liberals on the court,” said Spencer.

In addition, this term was also one of the most deeply divided. One-third of all cases were decided by a 5-4 margin, the highest ratio in a decade. “It’s sometimes frustrating to see all of these decisions come down that are fragmented, with dissents and special concurrences,” he said. “You get the feeling that there’s really no consensus among the court when you see that. When you see a unanimous decision, it gives you some reassurance that nine people can look at something and agree on it.” Only 25 percent of the court’s decisions this term were unanimous, compared to 45 percent last year.

In addition to its divisiveness, the high court was noted for its frequent overrulings of precedents, its mostly conservative rulings on major social issues, and the extremely high percentage of decisions favoring business this term.