When Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in June 2018, the Supreme Court lost its swing justice, the justice in the court’s “middle” who controlled the outcome in its most contested cases. This year, Chief Justice John Roberts cemented his position as the new heir apparent to this title. But, like Kennedy before him, this shift has moved the court to the right in doing so.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the court this year decided 53 cases with written opinions, the lowest number of cases since 1862 (in the middle of the Civil War). Of those 53 cases, Chief Justice Roberts was in the majority for 97% of the cases, the highest percentage for a Chief Justice since 1949. The significance of this astounding number is