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The Chamber of Commerce Court


Not that this is surprising, but there’s yet more data demonstrating the pro-business tilt of the Supreme Court:

But the business docket reflects something truly distinctive about the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. While the current court’s decisions, over all, are only slightly more conservative than those from the courts led by Chief Justices Warren E. Burger and William H. Rehnquist, according to political scientists who study the court, its business rulings are another matter. They have been, a new study finds, far friendlier to business than those of any court since at least World War II.


Whether the Roberts court is unusually friendly to business has been the subject of repeated discussion, much of it based on anecdotes and studies based on small slices of empirical evidence. The new study, by contrast, takes a careful and comprehensive look at some 2,000 decisions from 1946 to 2011.

Published last month in The Minnesota Law Review, the study ranked the 36 justices who served on the court over those 65 years by the proportion of their pro-business votes; all five of the current court’s more conservative members were in the top 10. But the study’s most striking finding was that the two justices most likely to vote in favor of business interests since 1946 are the most recent conservative additions to the court, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., both appointed by President George W. Bush.

And lest you believe in the Easter Bunny that this represents technical applications of black letter law, consider, say AT&T v. Concepcion, a Scalia opinion using the kind of statutory analysis that Scalia would write books making fun of if it reached an outcome he didn’t like.

When you consider that, according to the data in Epstein et al.’s book, Alito and Roberts are also among the most reactionary justices on civil liberties of the post–WWII period, those nominations are a real prize. The clear lesson here, I think, is that we need more Republicans in office because these days a Republican president is likely to nominate zombie William Brennan.

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