Getting the Roberts Court Right: A Response to Chemerinsky

32 Pages Posted: 26 Nov 2008 Last revised: 13 Apr 2012

See all articles by Jonathan H. Adler

Jonathan H. Adler

Case Western Reserve University School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center


In The Roberts Court at Age Three, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky offers a preliminary assessment of the Roberts Court. Among other things, Dean Chemerinsky reviews the effect of the Court's shrunken docket and the role of Justice Anthony Kennedy as the Court's median justice. Reviewing the Court's decisions over the past three years, Dean Chemerinsky concludes that the Roberts Court is the the most conservative Court since the mid-1930s. This is a substantial overstatement. The Roberts Court appears moderately more conservative than its predecessors in some contexts, but is also quite liberal in others. Its decisions on enemy combatants, capital punishment, and standing, among other issues, could hardly be characterized as conservative, however this term is defined. Furthermore, any assessment of the Roberts Court at this point is necessarily tentative. The current roster of justices have sat together for less than three full terms, and the small size of the docket means any single term provides an unrepresentative picture of the Court's jurisprudence. While the Roberts Court may eventually show itself to be a conservative court, there is no basis at present to claim the Court is the most conservative in over seventy years.

Keywords: Chief Justice John Roberts, Erwin Chemerinsky

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Adler, Jonathan H., Getting the Roberts Court Right: A Response to Chemerinsky. Wayne Law Review, Vol. 54, p. 983, 2008, Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-32, Available at SSRN:

Jonathan H. Adler (Contact Author)

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