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RBG Leads the Way With Majority Opinions

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Having written four majority opinions for the U.S. Supreme Court this term, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is ahead of her class.

The head-count puts her above the next member of the court, Justice Clarence Thomas, who has written three majority opinions. Justice Samuel Alito Jr., on the other end of the bench, has written none.

Majority opinions can reveal the general direction of the court. In Ginsburg's case, courtwatchers say it is changing.

Bit of a Surprise

Ginsburg wrote three of her majority decisions after returning from surgery from lung cancer. It was a bit of a surprise for President Trump, who had plans to replace her while she was still in the hospital.

Meanwhile, she recovered and then came back like a lion in March. In BNSF Railway v. Loos, she authored an opinion that forged an "unusual" alignment of Justices.

Daniel Hemel, writing for SCOTUSblog, said it was unusual because three conservative Justices joined the liberal four. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito Jr. and Brett Kavanaugh followed Ginsburg and Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan for a day.

Hemel said Ginsburg had to navigate the issues carefully to "cobble together a majority." In the end, Hemel said it was a win in "the deference war."

Three More Opinions

Ginsburg authored another opinion that was released the second day after she came back to work. In Timbs v. Indiana, the majority said the Eighth Amendment's ban on excessive fines applies to the states.

The BNSF Railway opinion -- which sided with the railway over taxes on a worker's missed wages -- came out the same day as a copyright case. That decision held that a copyright owner cannot sue for infringement until the U.S. Copyright Office registers the copyright.

Long known as one of the fastest writers on the Supreme Court, Ginsburg also wrote the first opinion of this term.

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