Rate the Current USSC Justices (non-ideological)

How do the current SC justices rank in terms of intelligence, legal reasoning, consistency etc.?

I’m hoping we can leave ideology out of this, but I suspect it may not be possible. In that case it might be more instructive for how people rank the various liberals against each other, and the various conservatives against each other.

I’m no expert on these matters, but I get the sense for example that Sotomayor is a relatively weak link. But I could be wrong of course. In any event, I’m hoping for some input from more knowledgeable people.

My view:


The middle four I’m persuadable on, but I feel fairly strongly about the placements of Roberts, Kagan, Alito, and Kennedy.

I didn’t rank Gorsuch, since we don’t yet know how he’ll behave on the Supreme Court. I wasn’t impressed by his first opinion. I suspect he’ll fall somewhere in Breyer/Alito-land.

1 - Thomas
2 - Roberts
3 - Ginsburg
4 - Kagan
5 - Alito
6 - Breyer
7 - Kennedy
8 - Sotomayor

n/a - Gorsuch

I left out Gorsuch since he’s too new.
I find Sotomayor’s and Kennedy’s writing abysmal. Unclear, unpersuasive, and uninteresting. Breyer is only slightly better, but I find he to take positions he favors rather than what the law may demand. Alito comes to my favored results more, but his writing is dull. Both Kagan and Ginsburg I find have much more sharply honed styles and are more persuasive. Roberts is even stronger in this area, but is often too cautious. Thomas displays a fidelity to the law that I appreciate and his writing is solid.

All just my opinion.

Thomas is a pretty good stylist. His opinions are consistently easy to read and well-structured. But that’s in large part because usually has simple ideas to express. He writes fewer of the fraught, closely divided opinions. So he doesn’t have to write compromise language because it’s an easy case or because he’s just writing for himself. I also think he’s a bit of a fringe thinker on the law, and I think there’s a chance that his jurisprudence comes from a desire for simplicity, which I dislike (but understand).

The converse is also true. Kennedy has to write a lot of fraught, compromise opinions. So I cut him some slack on his terrible, unclear style. Even so, I still think he’s easily the worst justice. I think he’s just an unclear thinker, which is why he’s able to be such a chameleon.

As to Sotomayor, I think she’s a clearer thinker and writer than Kennedy, easily. Alito strikes me as more likely than Sotomayor to include flawed or conclusory statements or needless partisan jibes (now that Scalia is gone). I also don’t think he has a very consistent jurisprudence but behaves as if he think he does. So I put Sotomayor above Alito too. But as for Breyer/Sotomayor/Thomas/Ginsburg, I think it’s close calls all around.

Well, as for our top 3 and bottom 3, we have overlap in two of each :slight_smile: I think Thomas and Sotomayor are where we have the largest discrepancy. It’s true that when Thomas is in the minority or is writing a concurrence he can take a position that is just for himself. I wish the other justices would do that more. Thomas just came out with a concurrence regarding qualified immunity. There was no need for it, but I enjoyed reading it.

About the partisanship with Alito - I agree. His writing gives me the impression that he’s preening. I think Sotomayor acts similarly. I find them both pretentious, but since Alito comes to my favored result more I have to rate him higher :slight_smile:

Kennedy - I don’t disagree that he’s an unclear thinking but I attribute that to a lack of principles more than anything else.