Trump SCOTUS Appointees Break With Conservatives In Major Shift


Donald Trump outsourced his choices for the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to a conservative group. His only involvement was to send first daughter Ivanka Trump to former Justice Anthony Kennedy and convince him to retire. Coincidentally or not, Kennedy’s son worked for the bank that funded huge Trump real estate deals, Deutsche Bank.

With Donald Trump in office, many worried that he would turn the Supreme Court into a group of conservative yes men protecting him from his own criminal activity. Certainly, the president placed two justices in the lifetime terms, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) withheld President Barack Obama’s last justice.

However, as is common, the justices shifted their positions every time another one left and then was replaced. For instance, Chief Justice John Roberts moved to the swing vote position regarding the 2020 census citizenship case.  Gorsuch went with the liberals twice in the court’s last week.

Statistician for SCOTUSblog and Emperical SCOTUS Adam Feldman indicated that during the last SCOTUS term, Kavanaugh aligned most closely with Chief Roberts, a full 94 percent of the time. Kavanaugh and Gorsuch agreed only 70 percent of the time. Gorsuch lined up with Roberts even less, 68 percent of the time.

Law professor at Georgetown University Susan Bloch told The Hill:

‘Collectively, we may have the three of them acting as swing votes in a number of different areas.’

The professor noted that the two justices Trump appointed unexpectedly shifted. They did not always agree in their opinions:

‘What page they’re on is harder to predict.’

The statistician told The Hill that when justices were in his or her first term, conservatives tended to align with the other conservatives. Given Kavanaugh’s difficult confirmation process where an expert on sexual attacks’ credibly accused him of attacking her, the justice’s low profile was not surprising.

Bloch disagreed. She said that Kavanaugh was weighing the legal merits of each case. Those decisions, she felt, had nothing to do with his confirmation:

‘I’m sure he hated the confirmation process, but I would be surprised if he’s trying to do anything other than hope people forget about it. I can’t imagine he’s trying to sort of strategically vote with the confirmation process in mind, partly because I don’t think that’s the way he thinks and partly because I think it’s an impossible task.’

Regardless of how he got to his decision, Kavanaugh was the swing vote just once this term. He went with the liberal justices in a class-action suit against the mega-corporation, Apple. The issue was app prices.

Conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Ben Shapiro were concerned about how far the newest justice would move toward the right.

Gorsuch was the first conservative justice Trump appointed. He often voted with the liberals in split decisions. Apparently, the president installed the latest swing voter in some instances. The justice voted with the liberals four times in the 5-4 rulings.

When it came to challenges to criminal statutes, Gorsuch tended to go more liberal. For instance, his opinion swung the vote that struck down a federal law on gun offenses related to “a crime of violence.” His reasoning was that the statute was “too vague.”

That same week, he did it again. This time he found a mandatory minimum sentence for sex offenders violating their probation unconstitutional.

Feldman found the census citizenship question was:

‘…a great example of a case where Roberts would be particularly pensive and practical about where his position was, because a case like that has political implications that a lot of people that might not otherwise follow the court probably pay attention to.’

Feldman said that Gorsuch was similar to Justice Kennedy when the case involved individual liberties. The statistician felt that the justices’ ruling patterns had more to do with the type of cases SCOTUS took than their jaunts to the liberal side.

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