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Is the Supreme Court Drifting Leftward?

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Alicia Parlapiano, Adam Liptak, and Jeremy Bowers write in the NYT:

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been a conservative court. But even conservative courts have liberal terms - and the current term is leaning left as it enters its final two weeks.

The court has issued liberal decisions in 54 percent of the cases in which it had announced decisions as of June 22, according to the Supreme Court Database, using a widely accepted standard developed by political scientists.
If you have access behind the paywall at National Law Journal, you might think I agree with that assessment.  My view is more nuanced than a brief blurb in a newspaper article can explain.

I have remarked more than once on the shortcomings of the labels "liberal" and "conservative."  Sometimes they work, as I noted Monday.  Sometimes they don't.

In the cases I follow closely (criminal, habeas corpus, law-enforcement-related civil), the number of wins for the "liberal" side this term (the defendant, the habeas petitioner, the prisoner, the person challenging police action) is to some extent a function of the cases the Supreme Court has taken up.  There are several where even a pro-law-enforcement type like me thinks the "other" side properly won.
Jennings v. Stephens:  If the district court holds that the habeas petitioner does indeed have a claim for ineffective assistance, does he need a certificate of appealability when the state appeals that holding, and the petitioner merely wants to argue on appeal other aspects of counsel's performance that the district court didn't find ineffective.  Of course not.  I even went so far as to file a brief supporting neither party, agreeing with the petitioner to that extent.

Holt v. Hobbs:  Is there any valid reason for a prison not allowing a prisoner to have a half-inch beard if he sincerely believes his religion requires it?  He is going hide contraband in a half inch?  Even Justice Alito wouldn't buy that, and he's even more of a h.a. than I am.

Yates v. United States:  Is throwing a fish overboard a violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which was supposed to be about reforming financial institutions?  As a matter of strict textualism, that is what the statute says, and I thought the fisherman would lose.  I wasn't sorry to see him win, though.

Then there are a couple of cases that are counted as "wins" for the "liberal" side but really aren't:

Elonis v. United States threw out the jury instruction used in that case but left the door open to an instruction based on "recklessness," which will, I believe, get to the same result in nearly all cases.  See here and here.

Los Angeles v. Patel threw out the inspection of hotel registers with no individualized suspicion or preinspection process at all, but the court did not set a very high bar for the enactment of a new ordinance.

Most of the cases of this term are narrow and will be little noticed in coming years.  The most important of those decided so far are Elonis and Ohio v. Clark.  One is a draw, in my scoring, and the other is a home run for the home team.  It's not a bad term for law enforcement, as things go, and if Glossip comes down the right way it will be a good one.

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"h.a." = "high attainment"

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