Supreme Court Controversies

September 28, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 34
Has Chief Justice Roberts led an activist court?
By Kenneth Jost


Supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act demonstrate at the Supreme Court (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)
Supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act demonstrate at the Supreme Court on March 26, 2012. The court's surprise decision to uphold the health care law on June 28 — with Chief Justice Roberts voting with the court's liberal bloc — focused new attention on the high court. (Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla)

The Supreme Court opens a new term on Oct. 1 with a major affirmative action case from the University of Texas set for argument the next week. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is starting his eighth year on a court that is divided on many issues between five generally conservative Republican appointees and four liberal Democratic appointees. Court watchers are still debating the implications of Roberts' surprising vote in late June to join the liberal bloc in upholding President Obama's controversial health care law. Despite that decision, liberal critics continue to accuse the Roberts Court of political decision making, judicial activism and a pro-business orientation. The court's defenders say the justices are acting without regard to politics and following judicial restraint. Besides the affirmative action case, the justices may also tackle marriage equality and voting rights cases before the term ends next June.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Dec. 16, 2022  The Supreme Court
Sep. 28, 2012  Supreme Court Controversies
May 13, 2011  Class Action Lawsuits
Jan. 28, 2005  Supreme Court's Future
Sep. 17, 1993  Supreme Court Preview
Aug. 14, 1987  Supreme Court Nomination
Sep. 26, 1986  The Rehnquist Court
Oct. 26, 1979  Supreme Court and the Press
Sep. 22, 1978  Burger Court's Tenth Year
Jun. 24, 1977  Politics and the Federal Courts
Oct. 09, 1968  Challenging of Supreme Court
Sep. 28, 1966  Supreme Court: Legal Storm Center
Jan. 22, 1958  Criminal Prosecution and the Supreme Court
Jan. 23, 1952  Judges in Politics
Jun. 05, 1939  Supreme Court Decisions, 1938–39
Nov. 17, 1938  Supreme Court Appointments
May 31, 1938  Supreme Court Decisions, 1937–38
Jun. 01, 1937  Supreme Court Decisions, 1936–37
Jun. 01, 1936  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1935-36
Jun. 05, 1933  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1932-33
Jun. 04, 1932  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1931–32
Jun. 06, 1931  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1930–31
Jun. 09, 1930  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1929–30
Jun. 10, 1929  Decisions of the Supreme Court, 1928-29
Jun. 09, 1928  Decisions of the Supreme Court 1927–28
Sep. 27, 1924  The Supreme Court Issue
Supreme Court History and Decisions