UC Law Constitutional Quarterly


This Article, the fourteenth in a series, tabulates and analyzes the voting behavior of the United States Supreme Court. This particular study examines the Court's voting behavior during the 1998 Term. The Article attempts to determine whether individual Justices and the Court as a whole are voting more "conservatively," more "liberally," or about the same as compared with past terms.

Whether a vote is considered "conservative" or "liberal" depends upon the issues being decided. Generally, votes favoring the assertion of governmental power are "conservative," while those favoring claims of individual liberty are considered "liberal." The issues are categorized into ten different types of cases: Civil-State Party (state government versus a private party), Civil-Federal Party (federal government versus a private party), State Criminal Cases, Federal Criminal Cases, First Amendment Cases, Equal Protection Cases, Jurisdiction (cases raising a challenge to the exercise of federal jurisdiction), Federalism Cases, and Swing-Vote Cases.

As in the 1997 Term, the voting behavior of the 1998 Term indicates overall liberal movement in a majority of the categories. Of the four categories that showed conservative movement, none were particularly noteworthy. Furthermore, this is the second consecutive Term that the Court has voted liberally on close cases decided by one vote, suggesting that ideologically charged cases are yielding more and more liberal results. All this indicates that the Rehnquist Court may be more "liberal" than present commentary suggests.