The 2016-2017 term, which concluded on Monday, opened with eight justices and every expectation that, after Hillary Clinton was elected, the Court’s balance would soon tilt liberal for the first time in four decades. Then Donald Trump won, Neil Gorsuch was appointed to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, and the Court once again had a five-member conservative majority. The Court had fewer headline-grabbing cases this term than in prior years, but it nonetheless decided several important cases—certainly enough for Gorsuch to show his colors, which thus far are deep red. As Adam Liptak of The New York Times has noted, the Court was more united than ever this term, largely because, with eight justices for much of the time, it strove to achieve consensus by deciding cases narrowly. On constitutional matters, it was especially united in defense of First Amendment speech rights. But other issues continued to spark controversy—including state support of religion and the availability of damages for federal officials’ violations of basic constitutional rights.
NY Review of Books
June 29, 2017