We tend to think of the US Supreme Court as being sharply split along ideological lines. But as this article points out, that is because the media focuses on a few high profile cases which have an elevated profile precisely because they are split that way. In actuality, there is a remarkable degree of agreement among the justices in their rulings, with even the lowest level being 66% between Ginsburg and Thomas
The Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor bloc shows a slightly higher level of cohesion than the Scalia, Thomas, Alito bloc.
The justices are one of the lasting legacies of the presidents who appoint them, and you might expect ones appointed by the same president to vote together particularly often. This is certainly true of the four newest justices. The ones appointed by President Obama, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, have agreed 94 percent of the time. The members of the court appointed by President George W. Bush, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., have agreed 93 percent of the time.
The tendency is less marked among justices on the bench longer. President Bill Clinton’s nominees, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, were less likely to agree, at 88 percent. And President Ronald Reagan’s appointees, Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy, have agreed just 82 percent of the time.
People’s views do change with time and I suspect that this is true for Supreme Court justices as well.
Some people have been urging justice Ginsburg (who at 81 is the oldest person on the court) to retire while president Obama is still president and can name her replacement without risking a Republican president to take office in 2017. But the situation in Washington now is so viciously obstructionist that it is possible that any Obama nominee will filibustered and force the court to limp along with just 8 people until a new president is sworn in. Furthermore Obama seems to not have the inclination to push through a strong progressive voice anyway.