The Supreme Court’s Lurch To The Right (CHARTS)

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The modern Supreme Court is the most conservative since the 1930s.

The median justice during the Roberts Court is more conservative than at any time during the last 75 years, according to a statistical method developed by legal scholars Andrew Martin of Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and Kevin Quinn of the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

When he was appointed in 1975 by President Ford, Justice John Paul Stevens was considered one of the court’s more conservative members. By the time he retired in 2010, he was heralded as its liberal lion.

The high court’s rightward trajectory mirrors the broader national shift over the last several decades. President Bush sealed a five-member conservative majority by appointing Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.By contrast, justices appointed by Democratic presidents have grown less liberal, with President Obama’s two picks shifting the court further to the right, according to Martin and Quinn.

Five of the 10 most conservative justices since 1937 serve today, according to a separate 2008 study by judge Richard Posner and law professor William Landes.

The charts below reflect the remarkable shift, using Martin and Quinn data (h/t Mother Jones).

Notably, while Republican-appointed Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter became more liberal over time, Democratic-appointed justices have become more conservative during the Roberts Court.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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