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SCOTUS Term Recap: Chief Justice Roberts Becomes Swing Vote As High Court Continues Conservative Shift




Justices of the US Supreme Court. Seated from left: Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John  Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito. Standing from left: Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh.
Justices of the US Supreme Court. Seated from left: Associate Justices Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel Alito. Standing from left: Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Brett Kavanaugh.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

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With the departure of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the U.S. Supreme Court in July of last year, it wasn’t clear exactly who, if anyone, would take his place as the potential swing vote on the court heading in to the court’s most recent term, which began in October and concluded last week. Now that it’s over, it looks like the new swing man is none other than its formal leader, Chief Justice John Roberts.

Chief Justice Roberts provided the swing vote in what was probably the most highly-anticipated ruling of the term, U.S. Dept. of Commerce v. New York, in which the court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration could not include a question about respondents’ citizenship on the upcoming 2020 Census, at least for now, because it did not provide sufficient proof that the question was necessary. However, it did leave room for the possibility that the Trump administration might try to add the question again. But just as with the Census question, where the court showed us that party lines don’t always lead to predictable decisions, the court also showed evidence of its slow-but-steady shift to the right in its 5-4 ruling on a case involving partisan gerrymandering in which it determined that the federal courts should not have a say in disputes involving partisan gerrymandering, and that the issue is one to be resolved by politicians and the political process.

What were some of the other major rulings that came down from the Supreme Court this term? What did we learn about the makeup of this Supreme Court from this term? What about the newest justices and President Trump’s two appointees, Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh? What are the major cases coming up next term for the High Court and what can we infer about how the court might rule on some of those cases based on this term?

Guests:

Amy Howe, co-founder of SCOTUSBlog and author of the blog “Howe on the Court”; she tweets @AHoweBlogger

Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for The Wall Street Journal; he tweets @JessBravin