Reports on the Accomplishments, Outcomes and Posture of the US Supreme Court in 2013-2014 Term
The U.S. Supreme Court granted cert to many important issues, and adjudicated many related lawsuits in the concluded 2013-2014 Term. In resolving these important lawsuits, the U.S. Supreme Court tilted to more conservative posture without completely overturning any of the major landmark holdings but nevertheless denting many of them in a nuanced manner.
The US Supreme Court Chief Judge, John Roberts, must be reasonably pleased with the performance of the Court in 2013-2014 Term. The Court advanced the conservative philosophy and yet preserved the appearance of balance and neutrality.
Further, in some of the featured cases of the Term, the Court delivered unanimous or near-unanimous decisions. This was, it appears, made possible because the Chief Justice went the extra mile to find a little bit of common ground with the liberals in some of the Term’s most significant opinions. The following rulings illustrate the approach adopted by the Chief Justice.
In McMullen v. Coakley, the Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional Massachusetts’ 35 foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. While the more conservative judges on the bench argued that the restriction should be viewed as content-base and therefore, such restriction was unconstitutional. But in finding the content neutral, the Court adopted a less rigorous standard of review.
In Halliburton v. Erica P. John Fund, the Court unanimously required that defendants in stock fraud cases be given an opportunity to rebut at the class certification as decided in Court’s 1988 decision in Basic v. Levinson. While the three conservative judges argued that Basic itself should be overruled, the Chief Justice did not go that far.
And in Bond v. United States, the case about whether an individual in a petty personal dispute could be prosecuted under a statute enacted to implement a chemical weapons treaty, the Court unanimously said that she could not. The Court read the statute narrowly, though the three conservative judges would have struck down the statute itself as unambiguous exercise of power that Congress does not have. Again, the Chief Justice did not subscribe to that expanded view.
All of these decisions for the Court were written by Chief Justice Roberts, who made sure that he addressed the principles that are important to the more liberal judges, even though those fundamental principles did not directly impact on the narrow outcome, or judgment, in the case.