This Week’s Report: “Supreme Court Controversies”

As the Supreme Court opens its new term on Monday, Oct. 1, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be starting his eighth year presiding over a high court sharply divided on legal and judicial philosophies. That division was evident in the court’s landmark ruling in June upholding President Obama’s controversial health care law, and it could well play out this fall as the justices take up the hot-potato issue of affirmative action in university admission policies.

As Associate Editor Kenneth Jost writes in this comprehensive overview of the Roberts court, “Roberts joins four other justices appointed by Republican presidents to form a conservative majority on some of the most closely divided issues. Four justices appointed by Democratic presidents… form a liberal bloc that winds up in dissent in most of the court’s 5-4 decisions.”

Even so, Roberts surprised – and disappointed – conservatives by siding with the liberal bloc in affirming the health care law, notes Jost, author of CQ Press’ Supreme Court Yearbook and The Supreme Court from A to Z. Meanwhile, liberal activists decry what they see as the court’s right-leaning slant in a wide range of decisions, including those on gender pay equity and campaign finance.

Jost’s piece provides both a thorough preview of the court’s new term and deeply reported background on the Roberts court’s judicial legacy. The report includes profiles of the court’s nine justices, summaries of its key decisions and 2012-2013 cases, a sidebar on the   affirmative action case and a pro-con debate by outside experts on whether the court should prohibit racial preferences in university admissions.

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor