Skip to:


Ten Things the 2012–13 Term Tells Us About the Roberts Court

by A. E. Dick Howard
99 Va. L. Rev. Online 48 (2013)

During the 2012–13 Term, the Court decided seventy-eight cases on the merits, an increase from the previous Term (when there were seventy-five such opinions), but still far fewer decisions than some years earlier. Almost half (49%) of the 2012–13 Term’s cases were unanimous. Harmony was not, however, the Court’s predominant mood. Nearly a third of the cases (29%) were decided by votes of 5-4—an increase of 9% from the previous Term. Another 8% of cases were decided 6-3. As has been true in previous Terms, Justice Kennedy was most often in the majority (91% of all cases and 83% in divided cases). The figures on agreement among various Justices are a bit more surprising. In prior years, we had seen the highest rate of agreement to be among pairs of Justices on the Court’s right. In the 2012–13 Term, however, it was the trio of female Justices—Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan—who most often agreed. Justice Kagan agreed with her sister Justices in 96% of cases, and Sotomayor and Ginsburg were in agreement in 94% of cases.

What does the 2012–13 Term tell us about the Roberts Court? No one Term can reveal the whole story, of course. But I venture a few observations. I style them as “Ten Things the 2012–13 Term Tells Us About the Roberts Court.”

Click on the link below to access the full text of this article.