Peter B. Rutledge*
October Term 2006 will be the first full opportunity for Courtwatchers to assess the impact of recent changes in the Court’s membership. It will be Chief Justice Roberts’ second full term and Justice Alito’s first. It also will provide the first full term in which to assess whether Justice Kennedy will reclaim his role as “swing justice.” Accompanying these changes in the Court’s personnel will be a docket full of interesting cases on topics such as the constitutionality of racial diversity programs, abortion, environmental law, punitive damages, and criminal procedure.
Consistent with prior contributions to this series, this essay offers readers a critical overview of what to expect during October Term 2006 at the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the potentially important shifts in the Court’s personnel and the consequences of those shifts for the Court’s voting blocs, the essay first analyzes the general effect of these shifts in membership, especially the impact of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito as well as the increased importance of Justice Kennedy. The second portion of the essay examines the major cases on the Court’s docket for October Term 2006 and places them in context of these changes in the Court’s membership.
This part of the essay addresses the impact of changes in the Court’s personnel. It considers the impact of Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito, and Justice Kennedy.
* Associate Professor of Law, Columbus School of Law, Catholic University of America. I would like to thank the Cato Institute, especially Mark Moller, for the invitation to submit this essay. Veryl Miles, Dean of the Law School, provided generous financial support for my research this summer. Maureen Smith and Barney Ford, both students at the Law School, provided excellent research assistance. Steve Young, a reference librarian at the Law School, helped to track down materials on the Supreme Court. Julie Kendrick, an assistant at the Law School, helped with the production of the manuscript (including suffering through my chicken scratches on the first draft).