Monday, April 12, 2010

The Supremes, The New York Court, Stevens' Retirement, Lippman's 1st Year, Etc., Etc.

[Again, just to be clear: No, I'm not there. Just keeping it in mind. And while I'm at it, Chile, Indonesia, New Orleans, and wherever there is suffering that demands assistance and reminding.]

[I just finished a project on the 1st year of the Lippman Court--i.e., New York's high court during the 1st full year of Jonathan Lippman's tenure as Chief Judge. That monopolized my court-watching time for the last few weeks. So now it's back to blogging on New York Court Watcher.]

The Supreme Court is finishing its 2009-10 term--the October 2009 term in Court-speak.

Justice John Paul Stevens has announced his retirement.

President Obama is making a decision on who to nominate to replace Stevens.

The New York Court of Appeals is itself nearing the end of its 2009-10 term. (Actually, the Court of Appeals' terms officially run conterminously with the calendar year.)

Its Chief Judge, Jonathan Lippman, just completed his 1st full year participating in the Court's decisions.

The Justices and Judges of those two Courts all have their goats, and what gets them should be explored. This helps both to understand the individuals themselves and to get a better sense of the composition of their respective tribunals. (A colleague--Prof. Keith Hirokawa--suggested a different metaphor: the jurists' cages and what rattles them. We then spent too much time conjuring up others--naturally, the more idiotic, the more we laughed.)

Both those Courts, and other high courts around the country as well, have been rendering decisions that really need to be discussed.

Then there's the upcoming Triple Crown races. The Kentucky Derby on the 1st Saturday (the 1st day this year) of May, followed shortly by the Preakness and the Belmont.

Then, of course, the best part of summer--the Saratoga meet. From the end of July into the early September. 40 days this year of God's most beautiful creatures and best athletes. Pure heaven on earth. Tied with Arizona that is.

In short, there's lots to cover. There's always lots to cover.

But for now, just a quick start. A short preface to what we'll be looking at regarding Justice Stevens. Here's a look at the number of dissenting opinions each Justice wrote last term, and the number of total dissents they each wrote or joined:

Who's Dissenting & How Often?
Number of Dissents Written & Voted

(click to enlarge)
This graph, originally published in New York Court Watcher last September, shows that Justice Stevens authored the most dissenting opinions and voted in dissent more than any other member of the Court. Considering that Stevens has been the leader of the Court's liberal wing, his dissenting leadership means more than simply that he wins the award for being the most prolific. It also means that he--again the leader of the Court's liberals--has had the most to complain about.

But more than that, look at who else has dissented the most, both writing and voting. Ginsburg, Souter [Remember, he retired at the end of last year and was replaced by Sonia Sotomayor.], and Breyer. The Court's other liberals. So, the most frequent dissenters, the Justices with the most to complain about, the Justices who have been on the opposite side of the Court's winning majority the most frequently, are the Court's 4 liberals.

Well, that should make you gleeful or depressed. Either way, it tells you a lot about the current Court.

More on this and lots more in forthcoming posts.