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Is Chief Justice Roberts a Swing Vote Now?

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 07, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

After Chief Justice Roberts decided recently to not send a man who could no longer remember his crime to the execution chamber in Alabama, court pundits took it as a sign that the Chief Justice could be switching teams. The other conservative justices would've let the old-timer die. Although, most liberal pundits have been cautious about putting too much stock in the Justice Roberts statistics showing the Justice may have spontaneously grown a liberal conscious.

But the pundits have noticed for quite some time that Justice Roberts has not consistently agreed with his conservative brethren. As the years have passed, the analytics show that Roberts has been siding with the liberal justices more and more often.

Double Secret Liberal Roberts?

It is highly unlikely that Roberts is a secret liberal. Just looking at his track record of decisions will show that he still often sides with his fellow conservative jurists, just less often than when he started.

Interestingly, as FiveThirtyEight noted, conservative SCOTUS justices routinely become more liberal. And as anyone who has lived can recognize, people generally become more liberal as they age (even if they still are conservative by societal standards). It's just the way things work. 

Swinging Justices

Given the lifetime appointment, it is likely that Roberts will side with his liberal colleagues a whole lot more before he decides to retire. After all, he is only 63, a whopping 21 years younger than Justice Ginsburg. Given that Roberts could be on the bench for decades to come, if he does become a new liberal vote on the Court, there could be some significant shake ups.

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