A Supreme Court Conversation
Warm greetings and welcome back to our fifth Breakfast Table! I can't quite get past my lurking fear that someday your first entry will be: "Dear Dahlia, I quit." But for now I am delighted that you'll be around again this week to do some of the stunt-driving as we look at the final decisions of this term: a term that not only may prove historic for jurisprudential reasons, but that already has just because the players have changed.
In the meantime, I have loads of questions about cases that have already come down and also about emerging themes and trends for the term, premature as it may be to label them just yet. For instance, what do you make of all that early—and now somewhat muted, I think—media love about the court over the number of unanimous cases to have come down this year? Is unanimity a good thing per se? Is it necessarily the same thing as "humility" or "narrowness"—as the new chief justice has suggested? Is his claim that he will work toward building consensus on the court by attempting to "rule on the narrowest grounds possible," and to do only "what's necessary to decide the case," as he said at Georgetown last May, being borne out by the decisions so far? A very early look at the decisions that came down a moment ago—among them, U.S. v. Gonzalez-Lopez; and Kansas v. Marsh—suggests that the Rehnquist Court's 5-4 habit is holding.
I also wonder what you make of Justice Anthony Kennedy's newly expanded role at the center of the court? Isn't it odd that the headlines switch off accusing either Kennedy or Sam Alito of being the deciding vote, when they are both in the majority? I am finding it tough to put a label on some of Kennedy's new majority and plurality decisions—other than just "perplexing." I suspect our task for next few days may well be: Slate's Breakfast Table—We Read Kennedy Opinions So You Don't Have To.
There's a lot of other interesting Supreme Court news in this morning's papers. Joan Biskupic has a lovely profile of John Roberts: Wonderful Dad. The Washington Post is worried about what Justice Antonin Scalia almost did to environmental protection with last week's decision (limited by Justice Kennedy) in Rapanos v. United States. And professor Samuel Walker at the University of Nebraska claims Scalia distorted his analysis in Hudson v. Michigan.
I have loads of other questions for you, as I suspect you do for me. But mostly I am on tenterhooks waiting to read and discuss this morning's decisions.
Again thanks for joining me this week.
Swigging coffee already,
Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.