Opinion | The Supreme Court After Trump

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4 min read
fairly difficult
Now that his presidency has disintegrated into mayhem, how are the conservative justices processing his tenure?
The answer also matters on a deeper institutional level. Some justices have drifted quite far from their ideological starting points. Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens and David Souter come to mind. All were Republican-appointed justices (by Presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush, respectively) who ended their careers as among the most liberal members of the court they served on. Could history repeat itself with any members of the Roberts court?

For two of the three relatively young conservatives President Trump has named to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, it's unlikely. There has been a fair amount of academic attention to the question of justices' "ideological drift." One of the more interesting conclusions was drawn by Michael Dorf, a professor at Cornell Law School, in a 2007 article, "Does Executive Branch Experience Explain Why Some Republican Supreme Court Justices 'Evolve' and Others Don't?"

Examining Republican-appointed justices since the mid-20th century (these were most of the justices, since Democratic presidents have had bad luck in getting Supreme Court vacancies), the ones least likely to change their ideological stripes were those with substantial previous experience in the federal executive branch. Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh fit…
Linda Greenhouse
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