Supreme Court Expands Margins

5-4 votes that characterized last term grow scarce
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2008 2:35 PM CDT
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, left, gives the thumbs up sign to the remarks of his colleague Justice John Paul Stevens.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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(Newser) – The Supreme Court divisions expected after Samuel Alito replaced Sandra Day O’Connor materialized last term but have since disappeared in a tide of consensus. Only one of 35 cases this term has been decided 5 to 4. Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times looks at a once-predictable panel that seems to be emphasizing concessions over confrontations.

Conservatives held sway in cases that addressed lethal injection, voter ID, and child pornography, but liberals have crafted enough compromises to avoid a flood of one-vote margins. One expert points to the calendar and speculates that the justices "probably don’t want to provoke controversy, or become an issue, during the election—especially an election with a highly uncertain outcome.”