American Judges Association


Date of this Version



Court Review - Volume 56


Used by permission.


With thanks to Professor Todd E. Pettys for his past years of service writing this column, it is my honor to summarize, for Court Review, the civil case docket for the Supreme Court’s 2019 Term. The Court’s term was most memorable for its blockbuster cases involving gay and transgender rights, abortion rights, religious liberties, and presidential power. But it also supplied important decisions governing remedies for constitutional violations. It also decided a handful of environmental law cases, and, with even less profile and fanfare, the Court ultimately disposed of a significant number of intellectual property cases, as well. Along the way, the Chief Justice often called his own number when assigning opinions in the highest profile cases, while other members of the Court’s conservative wing illustrated the heterodoxy that often characterizes textualism and originalism. While conservatives may be displeased with a few of the resulting decisions, nothing in the opinions written by the Chief Justice or Justice Gorsuch this Term suggested a propensity to embrace rights that have no grounding in any relevant legal text or history. The Court’s liberal wing, meanwhile (and perhaps unsurprisingly), seemed to work from a defensive posture, often maintaining a solid grouping while catering to competing conservative principles in an effort to gain a vote or two. As fate would have it, October Term 2019 will also go down in history as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s last. She gave everything until the very end, having long ago secured her place in the Pantheon of American law.