The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority is back to being the conservative majority.
Two years after the court upheld President Barack Obama’s health-care law and a year after it bolstered gay rights, the five Republican-appointed justices are voting together again in the highest-profile cases.
In recent weeks that group, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has joined to loosen campaign-finance limits, back government-sponsored prayer and let states ban racial preferences. Now, as the court enters the final month-and-a-half of its term, those justices may unite in cases involving contraception, abortion protests and separation of powers.
“When he’s got the votes, it seems Roberts can move the law exactly as quickly as he wants,” said Elizabeth Wydra, chief counsel of the Constitutional Accountability Center and a frequent critic of the Roberts court.
Roberts, 59, now in his ninth year as chief justice, has presided over legal shifts on a host of issues. The court has jettisoned longstanding legal protections for racial minorities; allowed unlimited corporate and union spending on political campaigns; given companies more power to force arbitration of consumer and employee grievances; and shifted power away from the federal government to the states.
For the most part, those rulings featured the same five- justice majority on the nine-member court: Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.