by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The end of Justice Kavanaugh’s first term on the Supreme Court is a fitting time to make some observations. This has not been a year marked by many ideologically divisive landmark decisions, but the latest spate of decisions tells us a lot more than we knew a few months ago. Recall speculation during the early spring that Kavanaugh and Chief Justice Roberts, who at the time had disagreed in only one reported decision, were forming a duo that was going to block a conservative majority on the Court. In fact, Kavanaugh has been a solid member of a new four-justice conservative bloc that is often (though unfortunately not always) joined by the Chief on key decisions advancing religious liberty, reestablishing federalism and separation of powers principles, and protecting the right to private property. …
… Whatever metric is used, Kavanaugh was more likely to disagree with Roberts on merits decisions than with the trio of Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, with whom he broke in only four cases that received relatively little public attention. For that matter, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Alito each sided with one or more of the four liberal justices (at least on the judgment) without being joined by any conservatives on only one occasion.
Kavanaugh has disagreed with Alito in six decided cases, which barely surpasses the number of his disagreements with Roberts. All six of the disagreements with Alito occurred in lower profile cases.