Law: A Court with No Identity

How the "fluid five "keep the tribunal unpredictable

When Richard Nixon appointed four Supreme Court Justices between 1969 and 1973—Chief Justice Warren Burger and Associate Justices Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist and Lewis Powell—the President fully expected them to halt, if not reverse, the steady expansion of individual rights that had begun under the activist Warren Court. So did many court watchers. But it has not quite turned out that way.

During its 1978-79 session, which was adjourned last week, the Supreme Court was neither liberal nor conservative. It was distinctly nonideological. Which rights were upheld, and which rights were not, depended not so...

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