Adam Winkler: Obama’s Terrible, Awful, Horrible Year at the Supreme Court

tags: Barack Obama, Supreme Court, Adam Winkler, Daily Beast



Adam Winkler is a constitutional-law professor at UCLA.

While the country waits (and waits and waits) for the Supreme Court to announce its decisions in what court watchers are calling the Big Four—the two gay-marriage cases, the affirmative-action case, and the Voting Rights Act case—one thing has already become clear by the court’s decisions: the Obama administration has had a lousy year in the high court. While the administration has certainly won some cases, more often than not the court has rejected the administration’s arguments. On Thursday, for example, the court announced three decisions, rejecting the Obama administration’s arguments in each one.

In fact, this year may turn out to be one of the worst ever for the United States government at the Supreme Court.

Historically, there is no single litigant more successful in the Supreme Court than the United States. The court usually pays special attention to the arguments of the government’s representative, the solicitor general, whose office is known to have the best lawyers and the longstanding respect of the justices. Studies show that, in the past, the solicitor general won approximately 70 percent of its cases in the Supreme Court. That’s why the solicitor general is often referred to as the “10th justice.”

This term, however, the executive branch has lost far more cases than it has won. Although there are still some decisions to come—and one or two cases are mixed decisions that are hard to categorize—so far the court has clearly decided 24 cases in which the United States was a party. Fifteen of those cases went against the government, while only 9 sided with the administration. That’s a winning percentage of only 37 percent—a huge drop from historical patterns....



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