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SCOTUSblog on Justice Kennedy's Term:

Jason Harrow (SCOTUSblog) tells us how unusual Justice Kennedy's 97% batting average is. (Kennedy was in the minority in only 2 of the 71 cases he participated in this Term.)

Even Justice O'Connor, whom some used to refer to as the "most powerful woman in the world" due to her position in the center of the Court for many years, never had a Term like this. Her most successful Term was OT03, when she was in the minority five times and wrote two dissents; still, in that Term, 4 of her 5 dissenting votes were cast in 5-4 cases (there were 19 5-4's in OT03).....

One must look way back in the Court's history to find any single Term where one Justice had comparable success. Justice Kennedy's two dissenting votes tied Justice Brennan's output in October Term 1968; with a larger caseload back then, though, Justice Brennan's feat that Term is arguably more impressive. Still, one must go further back to Justice Byron White's October Term 1964 to find a circumstance where a Justice bested Kennedy and dissented only once over the course of a full Term, with no extenuating circumstances such as justice turnover (which can lead to misleading numbers).

The bottom line is that, by most measures, Justice Kennedy's October Term 2006 has been the most successful Term by a single justice in roughly 40 years.

steve lubet (mail):
The 5-4 majorities are impressive, but it is not so obvious that few dissents = a successful term. The mark of success ought to be persuading other justices to join you, not whether you have decided to join someone else's opinions. A better determinant of success would be how many times other justices dissented from Kennedy-written opinions (or perhaps how many justices joined his opinions, whether majorities, dissents, or concurrences).
6.28.2007 6:49pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I for one like the idea of calling "joining with the majority" a success. It sets a wonderful example for our children.
6.28.2007 6:56pm
Rich B. (mail):
1968 qualifies as "way back in the Court's history"?

Oy, do I feel old.
6.28.2007 6:59pm
Le Messurier (mail):
About as interesting as baseball statistics... and as useful.
6.28.2007 7:16pm
BGates (www):
If Kennedy had no impact on the other Justices, this result was inevitable - no matter how he voted on any of the cases that are 4-4 splits without him, he would end up on the winning side.
6.28.2007 7:19pm
glangston (mail):
It is remarkable that he was on the majority in those 5 cases that weren't decided by ideological or partisan votes. The others were simply falling one way or the other and impossible for him to lose.
6.28.2007 7:38pm
DRJ (mail):
Kennedy's votes are remarkable only if they are principled. How do we know he's not the Supreme Court version of Senator Sam Brownback voting on immigration reform?
6.28.2007 8:58pm
Phutatorius (www):
"Most successful" — humph. That depends on what your definition of "success" is.
6.29.2007 10:22am
Redman:
Too bad so few of his opinions in the major cases provide any real insight as to what he has decided or how to comply with them.
6.29.2007 12:12pm
bittern (mail):
Oh you sourpusses. Sourpi? The linked article has quotes around the word successes. That means wink, wink, irony. If that's not your kind of humor, fine. But don't complain that the author has a warped view of "success." C'mon.

Likewise, "remarkable" doesn't have to mean something DRJ would find admirable.
6.29.2007 4:38pm
NickM (mail) (www):

Kennedy's votes are remarkable only if they are principled. How do we know he's not the Supreme Court version of Senator Sam Brownback voting on immigration reform?


Because he only voted once in each case. ;-)

Nick
6.29.2007 4:42pm