Sunday, December 19, 2010

Is The Roberts Court More "Pro-Business" Than Its Predecessors?

There's an interesting piece in today's New York Times (by Adam Liptak, here) about whether the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts is more "pro-business" than its predecessors.

Liptak cites to a new study by professors at Northwestern and the University of Chicago that argues that the Roberts Court is more likely to favor business interests:
The Roberts Court, which has completed five terms, ruled for business interests 61 percent of the time, compared with 46 percent in the last five years of the court led by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died in 2005, and 42 percent by all courts since 1953.
Liptak states that a reason for the trend may be the advocacy efforts of the Chamber of Commerce's "National Chamber Litigation Center," which files amici briefs in an increasing number of cases.  He also says that retiring solicitors general are more likely to move from their government positions to lead the commercial litigation units at major firms. 

Surprisingly, Liptak does not tackle the seemingly central question of whether the judicial philosophies of Justices' Roberts, Alito, et als. are more oriented towards "free market outcomes" than previous conservative Justices including Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor.

Liptak provides a helpful list of cases before the Court during the current term that could affect businesses small and large:
  • A challenge to an Arizona law that imposes penalties on companies that hire illegal workers (according to Liptak, the challenge was actually brought by the US Chamber of Commerce)
  • A sex-discrimination class action against Wal-Mart
  • A suit by eight states against power companies, centered on the regulations that govern carbon emissions
  • A suit to allow companies to use standard-form contracts that prevent consumers from bringing class action suits