Not So Surprising News from the Supreme Court


The New York Times' Linda Greenhouse surveys the Supreme Court's decisions so far this term and admits herself "surprised" to find little evidence that "Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are joined at the hip and that the majority tilts reflexively in favor of corporations and employers." Shocking!

My guess is that Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Times Supreme Court correspondent, knows very well that Thomas and Scalia frequently disagree and that the Supreme Court cannot be reduced to a simplistic label like pro-corporate. But perhaps she's worried that Times readers won't be so accepting of these uncomfortable truths and therefore she pretended to be surprised when reporting them. Whatever the cause, her findings are certainly interesting:

• In decisions that have split the court in any direction, Justices Scalia and Thomas have voted on opposite sides more often than they voted together. They differed in all three of the non-unanimous criminal-law cases that the court has decided so far.

• Employees suing companies for civil rights violations have won all three cases decided so far, two of them by votes of 8-0 (with Justice Elena Kagan recused).

• By wide margins, the court has rejected arguments put forward by corporate defendants in several cases. It refused to permit corporations to claim a personal-privacy exemption from disclosure of law-enforcement records under the Freedom of Information Act. It permitted a liability suit to proceed against an automobile manufacturer for not installing the safest kind of back-seat passenger restraint. And in a unanimous opinion on Tuesday, the court refused to throw out a lawsuit by investors alleging that a drug manufacturer's failure to disclose reports that some patients using its cold remedy had lost their sense of smell amounted to securities fraud.

Read the entire post here. For more on the important differences between Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, see here and here. For more on the myth of a pro-corporate Court, see here.