Among other things, Justice Kennedy was the bulwark against legal assaults against abortion, perhaps the one issue, more than any other, where the court’s influence and public attention so clearly intersect.
.. With Justice Kennedy on the bench, the thinking among liberals went, how bad could things get? Now that he’s gone, we’re about to find out.
.. After he had appeared to invite a challenge to partisan gerrymandering way back in 2004, a case finally arrived in the just-concluded term, with the social science measures of partisanship he had asked for. But Justice Kennedy ducked without even writing to explain why as the court decided the case on narrow technical grounds. And though his principal left-leaning legacy is his expansion of gay rights, especially marriage equality, he settled for another narrow resolution this month, writing the majority opinion that favored the religious objections of a Colorado baker over a gay couple’s right to be treated like anyone else when they walk into a store and order a wedding cake.
.. To a degree, this step-by-step development of law is Chief Justice John Roberts’s approach, too.
.. Consider, for example, that Justice Neil Gorsuch has already made it clear that he’d like to revisit big and seemingly settled questions. This week, he joined Justice Clarence Thomas in questioning whether the Voting Rights Act applies to electoral redistricting at all.
.. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” he wrote, quoting Dostoyevsky.
.. he agreed with his four liberal colleagues in 2016 that Texas couldn’t close down clinics by claiming to protect women’s health, since the facts contradicted that claim. None of the conservatives on the court have given the slightest sign of stepping into those shoes. It’s just a matter of how far and fast they tack in the opposite direction.