When you go in to every weighty decision with four of the five minds needed already already made up, you have a winning advantage every time:
The Supreme Court term that is nearing its end shows how silence can signal success. With a notable paucity of dissents and not a single word to say about same-sex marriage, health care or housing discrimination, the court’s liberal justices prevailed in almost every important case in recent months.
“It looks like the ground under First Street is slightly tilted to the left,” said Carrie Severino, a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas and a conservative commentator, referring to the court’s address.
The four liberal justices — Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — were content to sign on to Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion that preserved a key piece of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
They similarly joined Justice Anthony Kennedy in his clarion-call opinion that gave same-sex couples the right to marry across the country and in another 5-4 ruling that upheld an important tool used by the Obama administration to win hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements of claims of housing discrimination.
Their conservative colleagues criticized each other — Scalia even asserted in his same-sex marriage dissent that California native Kennedy is not a true Westerner — and thundered on about the unchecked power of unelected, life-tenured judges. But the liberals spoke not a word.
They didn’t have to.