The Most Pro-Business Supreme Court Ever


The current Supreme Court is the most pro-business of all time. That is the clear message of an important new article on court decisions between 1921 and 2020.

Why it matters: Over the past 70 years, the government has broadly embraced — not just the judiciary, but both the Democratic and Republican parties — an increasingly corporate agenda.

  • The new data shows a degree of pro-business sentiment far surpassing even pre-depression peaks.

Situation: When the court heard a case involving a company on one side and a non-company on the other, in 2020 it ruled in favor of the company 83% of the time and 63% of the time John Roberts was chief justice.

  • Historically, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of companies only 41% of the time.
  • The paper’s authors — Lee Epstein, of Washington University in St. Louis, and Mitu Gulati, of the University of Virginia — collected their findings from the Washington University Supreme Court Database.
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By the numbers: The six judges with the most pro-corporate voting figures of all time are now all in court. These six (Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Alito, Roberts, and Thomas) were each nominated by Republican presidents.

  • Judges nominated by Democrats can also be business-friendly. For example, Elena Kagan is pro-business 56% of the time, putting her higher on the list than Antonin Scalia.
  • The least businesslike current judge, Sonia Sotomayor, still ranks 17th out of 57 judges. She is in favor of business 48% of the time. The equivalent number for Earl Warren, who was chief justice during the more working-class era from 1953 to 1969, is only 25%.
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How it works: To some extent one can see that the judges are following the example of the government.

  • When the government takes sides in these cases, it usually sided with business. The attorney general’s office was against the company only 20% of the time while Roberts was chief justice. That’s less than a 58% maximum under the Vinson court from 1946 to 1953.
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Between the lines: While high-profile cases like Citizens United or Hobby Lobby get the most coverage, the Roberts court has been particularly active when it comes to enforcing arbitration clauses (in favor of companies) and denying class actions in the securities industry (which companies invariably resist). against).

  • Such mundane statements often do more to help the broad masses of American companies than the politically relevant headlines.

It comes down to: Expect the pro-corporate stance to continue for the foreseeable future, especially with the Republican-nominated judges forming a 6-3 majority in the court.


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