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Conservative majority in Supreme Court was a force in 2021 term, as power within appears to shift

The high court's term concluded with the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer. He was replaced by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Published: June 30, 2022 2:28pm

Updated: July 5, 2022 9:35am

The Supreme Court ended its 2021 term with three decisions considered big wins for conservatives across the country – the  striking down of Roe v. Wade and decisions to limit the EPA's authority and that strict limitations on carrying guns in public violate the Second Amendment – in what observers see as a sign of the court's conservative influence now and for years to come. 

An analysis of 13 major cases before by the court this term, showed five were decided by a 6-3 conservative majority and two by its 5-4 majority. 

To be sure, the court's biggest decision, which it saved for the closing days, was on Roe, which ended women's decades-old  constitutional right to abortion. The decision was 5-4, with the gun right's case being decided 6-3.

Much of the credit for the majority decisions, at least among conservatives, has gone to former President Trump for having nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, then Amy Coney Barrett.

"This is no longer the Roberts Court," Harvard emeritus law professor Al Dershowitz recently told Just The News. “It's now the Trump court."

However, Trump, in a rare moment, demurred when asked whether he influenced the outcome of Roe, saying "God made the decision," though he took credit for the three appointments.

Chief Justice John Roberts had long been viewed as a moderating force on the court and within its conservative majority. However, the majority can now afford one of its six justices to defect from an opinion, reducing Roberts’ impact in narrow decisions.

Though Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion on Roe, Justice Clarence Thomas is considered to have been influential in its crafting and is emerging as an ideological voice in the majority bloc, some court observers say.

"He didn't write it, but the court was heavily influenced by Justice Thomas, in my opinion," Mark Paoletta, part of the George H.W. Bush administration during Thomas' confirmation process, told Fox News Digital. "Justice Thomas has been writing about overturning Roe for 30 years."

Thomas also wrote the majority opinion in a New York gun case last month that was considered a major win for Second Amendment advocates.

Paoletta, who helped recruit Thomas for the post, also said the justice's influence right now is "at its zenith."

The high court's term concluded with the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer, who was its second-longest-tenured member. He was replaced Thursday by now-Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

However, the change is expected to have little to no impact on the court's ideological makeup, considering the legal opinions by Brown, like those by Breyer, tend to be liberal.

If Democrats were able to soon change the makeup, it would come likely come through succeeding in their effort to "pack" the court, which would be having Congress pass legislation that would allow for more than nine justices.

"I think that we should be expanding the court," progressive sage Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in April 2021. 

The court has already confirmed that next term it will grant review to a notable North Carolina election case that has the potential to increase the power of state legislatures in setting the rules for federal elections that take place within their state, a possible signal that issue about election law will continue to be a major concern among Americans and within the U.S. court system. 

The court will begin their next term on October 3.

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