Chief Justice Roberts’s voting pattern certainly fails to conform to a predictable ideological pattern. But there is a pattern nonetheless. He is a conservative justice, but more than anything else, he is a judicial minimalist who seeks to avoid sweeping decisions with disruptive effects…
As a judicial minimalist, Chief Justice Roberts seeks to resolve cases narrowly, hewing closely to precedent and preserving status quo expectations. If a litigant seeks an outcome that will transform the law or produce significant practical effects, his vote will be harder to get. At the same time, he takes a strict view of “justiciability” — that is, whether a case should be in federal court at all. He is also reluctant to bless new avenues of litigation for those who seek to use the courts to drive public policy
He is generally reluctant to overturn decisions or to strike down federal laws. Thus he often reads precedents narrowly or construes federal statutes in ways that will avoid constitutional problems. Since he became chief justice, the Supreme Court has overturned its own precedents and struck down federal laws at a much lower rate than it did under Chief Justices Earl Warren, Warren Burger or William Rehnquist.
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