The Supreme Court might have three swing justices now

The court’s new median justice is Kavanaugh, continuing a trend to the right

Last year, we wrote that Roberts would likely land at the ideological center of the court in Kennedy’s absence, and he did — but so did Kavanaugh, who voted in almost total lock-step with Roberts. In fact, Kavanaugh was actually slightly closer to the center than Roberts was, according to their Martin-Quinn scores, a prominent measure of judicial ideology calculated by scholars Lee Epstein and Andrew Martin of Washington University in St. Louis and Kevin Quinn of the University of Michigan using data from the Supreme Court Database. As the chart below shows, their scores were almost indistinguishable…

Kavanaugh’s score this term is very similar to Kennedy’s score from the last term, but Kennedy was somewhat unpredictable in his last few years on the bench, occasionally shifting into liberal territory. The fact that Roberts and Kavanaugh are now at the median means the court’s ideological center will likely be solidly conservative going forward. The shift, though, didn’t put the court in dramatically new territory, since Kavanaugh’s score is still similar to Kennedy’s in many of the years when he was the median justice.