Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:
Nobody quite knows what to make of it yet, but nobody disputes it, either: The Supreme Court of March looks nothing like the court we knew in February. The loss of a single justice, Antonin Scalia, has blown up the court and reshuffled everything. It’s the early days yet, and much of the evidence of newish, liberalish outcomes at the court lies in routine housekeeping matters: unsigned orders and withdrawn appeals. Still, it’s safe to say the high court is no longer going to be a candy store for pro-business and socially conservative litigants. What will rise in its place is still a work in progress.
As the Washington Post’s Robert Barnesput it this past weekend, with Scalia gone, “the Supreme Court, now with only eight members, seemed transformed in substance and style.” It wasn’t just the fact that Justice Clarence Thomas, after 10 years of declining to ask a single question at oral argument,suddenly did so. It wasn’t merely the fact that arguments in a blockbuster abortion case were dominated by the court’s liberal wing, while the conservative bloc struggled to land a punch.
The crazy new vibe at the court isn’t even limited to the raft of orders that have come down in the past week. Those include a critical and unanimous order affirming the right of same-sex partners to adopt children and the tossing of a death penalty conviction in Louisiana because the state withheld significant exculpatory evidence.