The Supreme Court: Rehnquist's or Reagan's?

Published date01 March 1991
DOI10.1177/106591299104400105
Date01 March 1991
Subject MatterArticles
THE
SUPREME
COURT:
REHNQUIST’S
OR
REAGAN’S?
SUE
DAVIS
Uniaersity
of
Delaware
cholars
have
examined
leadership
on
the
Supreme
Court
exten-
sively
(see,
for
example,
Danelski
1960;
Slotnick
1979;
Spaeth
1984;
Murphy
1964;
Steamer
1986).
But
almost
nothing
is
known
about
the
impact
of
Chief
Justice
Rehnquist
on
the
decision-making
of
the
Court.
As
the
Court’s
shift
to
the
right
became
clear
at
the
end
of
the
1988
term,1
observers
proclaimed
the
arrival
of
a
genuine
Rehnqu-
ist
Court
bearing
the
Chief
Justice’s
distinct
imprint
(see,
for
example,
Wermiel
1989).
Such
pronouncements,
based
upon
an
assumption
that
Rehnquist’s
leadership
had
been
instrumental
in
cementing
the
con-
servative
majority,
left
important
questions
unanswered.
Is
Rehnquist’s
leadership
responsible
for
the
emergence
of
the
solid
conservative
majority?2
Has
he
built
that
majority
with
his
skills
in
leading
the
RECEIVED:
April
4,
1990
REVISION
RECEIVED:
July
5,
1990
ACCEPTED
FOR
PUBLICATION:
July
6,
1990
1
See
for
example,
decisions
restricting
the
use
of
the
anti-discrimination
provisions
in
the
federal
law
(
Patterson
v.
McLean,
109
S.Ct.
2363
[1989]
Wards
Cove
Packing
Co.
v.
Atonio,
109
S.Ct.
2115
[1989]),
striking
down
a
minority
set-aside
program
(
Richmond
v.
Croson,
109
S.Ct.
706
[1989]),
facilitating
challenges
to
court-approved
affirmative
action
plans
(
Martin
v.
Wilks,
109
S.Ct.
2180
[1989]),
upholding
drug
testing
for
federal
employees
(
National
Treasury
Employees
Union
v.
Von
Raab,
109
S.Ct.
1384
[1989];
Skinner
v.
Railway
Labor
Executives’ Association,
109
S.Ct.
1402
[1989]),
undercutting
the
precedents
of
the
Warren
Court
concerning
the
rights
of
the
accused
(
Duckworth
v.
Eagan
109
S.Ct.
2875;
U.S.
v.
Sokolow,
109
S.Ct.
1581
[1989];
Florida
v.
Riley,
109
S.Ct.
693
[1989]),
and
upholding
the
death
penalty
for
those
who
commit
murder
at
the
age
of
sixteen
and
for
the
mentally
retarded
(
Penry
v.
Lynaugh,
109
S.Ct.
[1989];
Stanford
v.
Kentucky
109
S.Ct.
2969
[1989]).
On
the
last
day
of
the
term
the
Court
approved
state
restrictions
on
abortions,
including
a
ban
on
the
use
of
state
facilities
and
personnel
and
a
requirement
of
a
test
to
determine
viability
(
Webster
v.
Reproductive
Services,
109
S.Ct.
3040
[1989]).
2
The
terms
conservative
and
liberal
are
used
throughout
this
paper
in
the
same
way
that
they
are
used
in
judicial
behavior
research.
A
conservative
vote
or
decision
is
one
against
a
claimant
in
a
civil
liberties
case
(with
the
exception
of
takings
claims
where
a
conservative
vote
is
one
in
favor
of
the
claimant),
against
the
regulation
or
against
the
underdog
in
a
case
involving
economic
activity,
for
the
state
in
a case
involving
federalism,
and
where
the
exercise
of
judicial
power
is
involved
against
the
use
of
such
power.
A
liberal
vote
is
just
the
opposite.

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