Thursday, September 11, 2008

Supreme Court's 2007-08 Term: The Defining Decisions (Intro)

Among the mere 67 cases decided by the Supreme Court last term (71 cases if summary reversals and 4-4 affirmances are included), there are nevertheless more than enough to help us understand the political-legal composition and direction of the Court. Indeed, several decisions seem to stand out as especially revealing about the Court and the individual justices.

My own survey of last term's decisions led me to 15 decisions. That number could have been several higher or lower. There's nothing magic about it. But in identifying decisions that seemed individually and collectively to provide some real insight, I came up with a list that just happened to number 15.

There are common denominators among these decisions. And depending upon which common denominators are emphasized, these decisions can be grouped in various ways. Others might well group them differently than me. But I did it in a way that would focus on ideological and philosophical implications. Here's how I grouped them: discrimination, cultural issues, law and order, and the political process. Of course these categories overlap somewhat. But grouping the decisions this way seemed helpful in getting a sense of the Court as a whole and, even more so, of the individual justices through the patterns in their voting on particular kinds of issues.

The next post begins by looking at the discrimination cases. Race, age, employment, retaliation, jury selection. VERY telling!