In recent years, several reports and studies have observed the evident skew in favor of business of the U.S. Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Thus far, this term has proved to be no exception, with a 6-1 win rate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And last month, three professors who are prominent in the conservative law and economics movement published what may be the most rigorous study yet on business success before the high court. After analyzing the some 2,000 decisions between 1946 and 2011 under various rubrics for what constitutes a business win before the court, the study confirmed previous conclusions that the Roberts court is significantly more pro-business than its predecessors. What’s more, they found that the most pro-business justices of all since 1946 are George W. Bush’s two appointees to the court: Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito:
As illustrated above, the study also found that five of the top ten justices most favorable to business are currently serving — and they make up the court’s conservative block. It is unsurprising, then, that this court is not only siding with business more, but that it is granting more cases in which lower courts decided against business and overturning those decisions in favor of business interests. The professors explain:
Whether measured by decisions or Justices’ votes, a plunge in warmth toward business during the 1960s (the heyday of the Warren Court) was quickly reversed; and the Roberts Court is much friendlier to business than either the Burger or Rehnquist Courts, which preceded it, were. The Court is taking more cases in which the business litigant lost in the lower court and reversing more of these—giving rise to the paradox that a decision in which certiorari is granted when the lower court decision was anti-business is more likely to be reversed than one in which the lower court decision was pro-business. The Roberts Court also has affirmed more cases in which business is the respondent than its predecessor Courts did.
As a New York Times report on the study notes, prominent among these pro-business decisions are landmark rulings that include the Citizens United decision, a string of decisions eroding the mechanisms for holding corporations accountable as a class, and this term’s Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which shredded accountability for human rights abuses abroad, including those by corporations with some U.S. presence.