The Changing Face of the Supreme Court
86 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2014 Last revised: 9 Jul 2015
Date Written: August 10, 2014
In the nearly half century since the close of the Warren Court era, we have seen important shifts in the Court's decisions, many of then in a more conservative direction. In the same time period, there have been important changes in the Court itself -- who the justices are, how they do their business, how they relate to the country at large. This article is about those changes.
The article begins by looking at the justices themselves. Compared to the the Court in the 1960s, today's Court is more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender. Religion and geography matter less than they used to. The justices are a professional elite, measured by their education and by nearly all having been appellate court justices before mounting the high bench.
The article then looks inside the Court -- at the leadership styles of the four most recent Chief Justices, at the "nine little law firms," at the law clerks, and at the Court's opinions.
The article next examines important shifts in the dynamics of cases and arguments. Here we consider the "shrinking docket," the emergence of a specialized Supreme Court bar, the explosion in the number of amicus briefs, and the remarkable pace and intensity of today's oral arguments.
The article then turns to the Court and how it and the justices relate to the country at large. Here we look at how the Court's relations with the media have evolved and how that has affected the public's perceptions of the Court. The article recounts the nature of justices' activities, including their speaking and writing, off the bench. We consider the question of the coverage of oral arguments.
Finally, the article places changes on the Court in the context of politics and partisanship. The lens here is the process of nomination and confirmation -- the changes wrought in that process since the days of Earl Warren.
Keywords: Supreme Court, History, Constitutional Law, Warren Court, Burger Court, Rehnquist Court, Roberts Court
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