When Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined with the court’s liberal justices to uphold President Obama’s health-care law, it was historic in more ways than one: It was only the second time in his seven years on the court that he provided the winning vote for the left to prevail over the conservative justices.
That statistic alone should be enough to cool hopeful chatter from some liberal political commentators that perhaps Roberts is showing signs of becoming the next David H. Souter. Souter, nominated to the court in 1990 by President George H.W. Bush, eventually became a fairly reliable liberal vote.
But it does point to another fact about the Supreme Court term that ended last week: In cases that divided the court into its usual ideological camps, liberals were in the majority as often as conservatives.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who normally provides the decision vote when liberals and conservatives disagree, sides about two-thirds of the time with conservatives. This term, according to statistics at SCOTUSblog, he split the difference evenly.