Conservatism on the Roberts Court

This graphic is a little old (2010) but incredibly useful. It came up while we were looking at public opinion and the Supreme Court as part of judicial activism and restraint. (

A key thing to remember is that activism and restraint are completely distinct from conservatism and liberalism. Activism is about ‘achieving desirable ends’ whereas restraint is to do with ‘deferring to elected (accountable) branches’; neither has anything intrinsically to do with whether a justice is conservative or liberal. Indeed the Roberts Court has often been touted as a return to conservative activism, taking cases on which they conservative ideology can be stamped (Chicago v McDonald/Dc v Heller – pro guns; Gonzales v Carhart – anti-abortion; Citizens United – pro money as free speech).

This graphic shows the number of conservative rulings over the last four courts, and is a useful comparative tool for any discussion over whether the Roberts Court has heralded a new era of conservative activism.