The basic story line, of course, is that the court has changed — as expected, if not a bit more than expected — with Justice Samuel Alito replacing retired Justice Sandra Day O’Conner. It’s no surprise that Alito has turned out to be more reliably conservative than O’Connor was. But new Chief Justice John Roberts was expected by some to be more of a swing vote than he now appears.
The net effect is a court that has swung noticeably in a conservative direction, in particular by reversing direction on several key issues. Among the most striking:
These and other changes in the court’s interpretation of the constitution are deeply distressing or brightly encouraging, depending on your point of view. The whole situation brings quickly to the surface the essential, central, eternal “big question” about courts and how they do their work: