Chart of the Day: The Supreme Court Over the Past 70 Years

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Christopher Ingraham at Wonkblog pointed me to an interesting bit of data yesterday. It’s the Martin-Quinn measure of how the Supreme Court tilts over time, and apparently it’s widely accepted as reasonably accurate. Here it is for the entire postwar period:

There are two fascinating nuggets here:

  • Despite conservative kvetching, the Court has leaned conservative for all but seven years from 1946 to 2013. The seven years of the Warren Court are literally the only period in recent history during which the Court has been consistently liberal.
  • The Martin-Quinn measure depends on the votes of the median judge, which is Anthony Kennedy right now. This is what accounts for the Court’s recent shift to the left. According to his Martin-Quinn score, Kennedy has been getting steadily less conservative ever since he joined the Court, and over the past three years he’s become positively liberal:

I suppose this is old news to veteran court watchers, but it’s new to me. Has Kennedy really shifted that much over his career? And is he now generally left of center? If so, does this have anything to do with the effect of Sotomayor and Kagan joining the Court in 2009-10? It sure looks like it.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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