Where Supreme Court’s Flowers Racial Bias Decision Fits Within Spectrum of Rulings

Where Supreme Court’s Flowers Racial Bias Decision Fits Within Spectrum of Rulings


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I’m fairly confident that the Supreme Court got it right in the Curtis Flowers case, in which the high court on Friday tossed out Flowers’ murder conviction.

The court threw out the conviction of Curtis, an African American from Mississippi, because of a prosecutor’s efforts to keep African Americans off the jury. The defendant already has been tried six times and now could face a seventh trial.

It should be noted that, even in today’s hyperpartisan environment, the vast majority of cases that the Supreme Court accepts are decided unanimously: 9–0. All the justices agree on the decision, usually without even separate “concurring opinions.” Sometimes without even writing an opinion, just, “Sorry, the lower court decision stands” or “Go back and rehear this case in light of …” (… being either a particular clause of the Constitution, or a previous decision of the Supreme Court).

The fact that this case was decided 7–2 is a strong indicator. The more justices agree, the more likely it is they are right.

As for bringing liberal and conservative justices together, I doubt it will have that effect. As I said, the vast majority of cases have no dissent. When the law and the facts are clear, the “liberal” vs. “conservative” distinction plays little or no role. And in fact that distinction really only matters on a few issues: abortion, First Amendment (free exercise vs. establishment), and voting rights.

On many other issues, like free speech, due process, property rights (5th Amendment “takings” clause”) the justices are divided, but not along the “liberal/conservative” axis.

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