The right-wing Supreme Court that wasn’t

Conservatives thought this Supreme Court term would be different.

Still reeling from losses last year in major cases on health care and same-sex marriage, they welcomed a new docket in October studded with cases that seemed poised to move the law to the right.

But then came two unexpected turns of events. Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving member of the court’s five-justice conservative wing, died. And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy veered left in two of the term’s biggest cases, joining the court’s liberals in significant decisions favoring affirmative action and abortion rights.

For the second term in a row, the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered liberal decisions at a rate not seen since the famously liberal court led by Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s.