The Roberts' Court

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It's a new Supreme Court since John Roberts and Sam Alito came onboard, and last week saw the proof in the pudding. The high court's 5-4 decision on a closely-watched abortion case essentially reversed a similar case of seven years ago, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was the swing vote on the court.

Now the Roberts Court is lined up to decide cases on campaign finance and free speech, schools and race, and much more. It's a new world on the high court that could reshape your world.

This hour On Point: after the abortion decision — the way ahead for the court that George W. Bush built.

Quotes from the Show:

"It was just 7 years ago that the Supreme Court struck down similar state laws. ... Some people had pinned their hopes on Justice Kennedy in this case because ... sometimes he's not always ... consistent. But in this case, decided last week, he wrote the majority opinion, very similar to what he wrote in dissent 7 years ago in that other partial birth abortion case." Jan Crawford Greenburg

"I think the decision is highly, highly significant. It's really a dramatic change for this Supreme Court. Justice Kennedy's opinion makes clear that states are going to have an important role in this debate; that he believes the Supreme Court has undervalued that role; and that states can make moral choices. This is quite different language that we've seen from the Supreme Court and it's going to allow states to pass greater laws, restricting abortion, regulating abortion." Jan Crawford Greenburg

"Far from being the Roberts court, this is entirely the Kennedy court. He's the one who controls the balance, and in this sense, this is a quintessentially Kennedy opinion. ... He's entirely consistent with what he wrote in the partial birth case a few years ago, and for him, it was in that case that he felt almost betrayed by his decision to uphold the core of Roe v. Wade. When he upheld Roe in 1992, he made clear that he thought that the bargain he'd struck was that early-term abortion had to be protected but late-term abortions could be restricted. ... In his mind, he's just upholding that original bargain and in that sense, the core of Roe is not at all under threat." Jeffrey Rosen

"It's hard to read from this decision a radical shift rightward because there are plenty of issues on which Kennedy will still side with the liberals. It's quintessentially a Kennedy opinion and it just reminds us that at the moment he's running the show." Jeffrey Rosen

"The reason that the anti-abortion forces pushed this issue was that it proved a great wedge issue with the Democrats. This was something that really made a lot of Democrats very, very uncomfortable because it focused on a procedure that a lot of people found immoral, and even people who'd support abortion under other circumstances. ... This has always been, I think, much more of a political issue than a legal issue or a medical issue." Karen Tumulty



Jan Crawford Greenburg, legal affairs correspondent for ABC and author of "Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.";
Jeffrey Rosen, professor at the George Washington Law School and author of "The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America.";
Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for Time magazine.

This program aired on April 23, 2007.


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