Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Odd Groupings on the Court

We tend to think of the Supreme Court as composed of "liberals" and "conservatives," and to a great extent, such a characterization is true. But, when we get away from blatantly political issues (abortion, gay rights, etc.), these groupings tend to fall apart. Take, for instance, the recently decided United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority. This case (regarding whether a local government can require that all trash be disposed of at a government-owned facility) was decided 6-3. While the majority was somewhat fractured (there were a few concurring opinions), it consisted of Chief Justice Roberts who wrote the opinion for the Court and Justices Scalia, Souter, Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer. Dissenting was Justice Alito, whose opinion was joined by Justices Stevens and Kennedy.

Granted, the question presented was not one of grave national importance (they decided that yes, a local government can regulate trash flow in such a way without violating the so-called "Dormant Commerce Clause"), but it is still interesting to see the Court split like this. It is uplifting, in a way, reminding us that Justices aren't purely driven by their partisan affiliations.

No comments: