Law: A Fragmented, Pragmatic Court

Groping for the middle way and posting multiple opinions

The Supreme Court's October-to-July year that ended last week will be best known for the race-yes, quotas-no, something-for-everybody decision that the Justices reached in Bakke. But the 1977-78 term should also be remembered for what Bakke reflects about the court itself: the notion of a conservative "Nixon court'' has by now become largely myth.

For a time, the Nixon court sobriquet seemed apt. From 1969 to 1971, four Nixon appointees joined the court—Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justices Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell—and...

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