The characterization of SCOTUS as a rubber stamp for Trump and Republicans is exaggerated

For a long time, some Dopers have characterized the Supreme Court (on which conservatives hold a 5-4 majority) as a de facto rubber stamp for Trump and the Republican Party. (Examples below - my point isn’t to call them out, Pit-style, just to give examples of the sentiment in question):

This conservative-majority Supreme Court has ruled against Trump on DACA - twice. It has ruled in favor of LGBT right to sue under the civil rights act, issued a stay/hold ruling against Trump’s attempt to add citizenship question to Census, upheld California’s coronavirus restrictions, and upheld a lower court’s ruling that states cannot be forced to work with ICE. It ruled against Trump’s EPA in the clean water dispute.

In addition, as USA Today noted, the 4 liberal justices vote together as a united bloc far more than the 5 conservative justices do.

this year there are at least 2 big cases left , one on Abortion and on Trump’s tax returns. Roberts might be the decider on those 2 as well as other recent cases.

Edit: In addition, Roberts has voted to uphold the ACA, Gorsuch (a Trump appointee) voted in favor of LGBT in the recent case, and Kavanaugh has often sided with the liberals.

USA Today: Conservative takeover of SCOTUS stalled by Roberts and Kavanaugh

“Gorsuch has made peace with the court’s liberals, often siding with Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in defense of the “little guy” being surveilled, accused, tried or convicted of a crime.”

Politico: Conservatives blast Roberts as turncoat

There are two separate cases on Trump’s tax returns. One involves Congress and the other the State of New York.

Of course it would be ridiculous to characterize ANY US or state SCt as a “rubber stamp” for any chief exec. But it would not be unfounded to speak of courts tending in one direction or another.

Also, as typified by Scalia, most claims to “contextualism” are hypocritical, depending on the issue.

I’m THRILLED to see that Gorsuch and Kavanaugh aren’t as HORRIBLE as I had feared. Of course, that falls far short of opining that they are individuals I would wish to have lifetime seats on the top bench.

Did the OP stop to consider the heft and consequence of the cases in which the conservatives prevail against the relatively minor nature of the cases in which one of them switches? Or the possibility that Roberts throws a few bones deliberately so as to maintain the presumption that the Court is neutral even while ensuring that conservative values win out in the long run?

I wrote that before checking your site. Interesting to find there that “the chief justice has voiced concern about the court being viewed as just another political branch of government.” He’s in position to game the system to alter that view.

The Supreme Court is not a baseball game. The total number of “victories” for each side are not equal. Some are worth many more points than others. You need to do a case by case breakdown of all decisions over the past three years. Keeping score in this way is no more than technically true, where a technical truth is one which rips the facts so far out of context that they appear to affirm the opposite of reality.

There’s no doubt that a 5-4 conservative majority will, on the whole, favor conservative interests more than liberal ones - that’s a given. But if SCOTUS were truly a rubber stamp as some claim, it would automatically vote for Trump/Republican interests. The fact that there is legit doubt as to how SCOTUS will rule on a given issue proves that it’s not a rubber stamp.

Furthermore, as the USA Today article noted, there’s never any doubt as to how the 4 liberal justices will rule on an issue like Obergefell or DACA. Whenever court watchers speculate whether a justice might flip and defect, it’s always about whether a conservative (or moderate like Kennedy, when he was still around,) will flip liberal. There’s never any question of whether someone like Ginsburg or Sotomayor would vote against same-sex marriage.

As for “heft and consequence” - the heft and consequence of this week’s LGBT ruling, and DACA, and Roberts upholding ACA years ago, are very substantial indeed. These aren’t minor cases.

Notice that today’s ruling apparently avoided ruling on DACA directly, saying only that Trump did not follow proper procedures. While Trump himself might not understand what that means there are certainly people in the government who do and presumably will. This is unlikely to result in a new ruling before the election.

You might want to remember that rubber stamp is a term you put into the mouths of others. They never said it. Instead, they were all saying that the Roberts Court doesn’t just favor conservative interests but does so overwhelmingly. Which is certainly true.

Here’s a NYTimes op ed from the beginning of this term. Some excerpts:

He has done so again in a pair of recent cases. That does not negate his overall record. Don’t get blinded by recentism. One week is not a trend.

And please stop putting words into the mouths of others.

Sure sounds like Trump expected the court to rubber stamp his agenda, based on his “shotgun blast to the face of Republicans and conservatives” blather today. As if he had any idea of the details of the ruling.

It’s sort of amusing, historically, how some of the justices conservatives fought hard to get on the court ended up disappointing them. Roberts is beginning to look like the new Souter.

The Senate vote for Roberts was 78-22. He wasn’t controversial at all.

The Trump administration has made a practice of seeking “emergency relief” from the Court to stay rulings of lower Courts that invalidate actions by Trump.

During the combined tenures of Bush and Obama, the government sought such relief only eight times — and the Court granted only four applications. In three years under Trump, the Roberts Court has granted seventeen emergency stays.

SCOTUS has struck down Louisiana’s abortion restrictions.

The anti abortion folks will just use this decision to rally the voters to turn out for Trump.

I am always wary of assuming that Roberts (or any Chief Justice (or any justice, for that matter)) throws an occasional bone to the “other” side for any reason, and tend to think and hope that they base their opinions purely on the law itself. I know they are only human, but in general this is what I believe. I often hear people on the cable channels imply that the reason Gorsuch or Kavanaugh, for example, vote for the perceived conservative side is because in essence they are backing the president that nominated them. To me, it always makes much more sense that if a conservative votes the conservative “line”, and it agrees with what a president would want, it’s simply because they are both conservatives, and not for any “payback” to the prez.

They also make a big deal about how they are not partisan or political. But when you look at their votes on big cases everyone pretty much knows in advance how they are going to vote.

For instance, on CNN today, at, the author says this:

Really? How can this writer know that the Chief Justice’s decision wasn’t base purely on his interpretation of the law? Certainly she is entitled to her opinion, but she does not present this statement in that way. She assumes Roberts is acting based on his need to support the integrity of the court, without any evidence.

Yes, you can usually make a pretty accurate guess. But I would hope that even in these cases, the justices are not making a political decision, but instead, we can guess how they will vote based on their ideology, as they may have demonstrated over the years.

Instead of no more Souters they will change to no more Roberts.

The reason that’s the interpretation is because:

Roberts sided with the minority in the Texas case.

In the Louisiana case he then said that the Texas case (the outcome of which he disagreed with) set precedent.