The Public Interest

Is the Rehnquist Court conservative?

David P. Bryden

Fall 1992

 IS THE Rehnquist Court conservative? Is the Pope Catholic? The Supreme Court is a divisive topic, but on one point nearly all observers agree: After several false starts, we now have a conservative Court. From this proposition, the only dissenters—at least in the academy—have been those scholars who prefer to call the Court “reactionary,” to distinguish it from the “true conservatism” that—in the critics” view—would be more respectful of precedents established during the Warren- and Burger-Court eras. The Court’s recent decisions in Lee v. Weisman (invalidating graduation prayers) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (modifying but upholding Roe v. Wade) may create a momentary lull in such hostile remarks by legal scholars, and we now hear a good deal about “the centrist coalition” of “moderately conservative Justices,” but everyone still agrees that this Court is virtually devoid of truly liberal tendencies, except of course in the dissents of Justices Stevens and Blackmun.

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