U.S. Supreme Court
Trump administration had worst Supreme Court record since at least FDR years, study says
“Our study of voting data from Supreme Court terms 1937-2021 shows that the Roberts Court is the most ‘anti-president’ court in that period,” according two professors at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. Image from Shutterstock.
The U.S. Supreme Court is dominated by six conservative justices, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump.
But the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts “has not been particularly receptive” to Trump’s arguments, showing that there is some truth in his claim that the justices “love to rule against me,” the New York Times reports in a Dec. 21 story.
Indeed, the New York Times says, the Trump administration’s Supreme Court record is worst than any other administration since at least the presidency of former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The New York Times points to data from Lee Epstein and Rebecca L. Brown, professors at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, who wrote about their findings for Presidential Studies Quarterly in June 2023.
“Our study of voting data from Supreme Court terms 1937-2021 shows that the Roberts Court is the most ‘anti-president’ court in that period,” they wrote in an abstract of their article.
The average win rate for presidents over that period was 65.2%. Trump fared the worst, with a win rate of 43.5%, followed by former President Barack Obama, who had a win rate of 52.4%, and President Joe Biden, who had a win rate of 56.5% through the court’s 2021 term.
The win rates are based on orally argued cases that implicated presidential power, including cases in which a party was the United States, an executive department or a department head, an independent agency or the president.
Low presidential win rates before the Roberts Court partly reflect the court’s disdain for the administrative state, as some commentators have suggested, according to Epstein and Brown. But data also reflects Roberts Court rulings against a president in high-stakes disputes, they said.
To evaluate high-stakes disputes, the researchers looked at a subset of cases focused on presidential overreach that appear in constitutional law textbooks, along with cases that made the front page of the New York Times the day after issuance.
The presidential win rate was only 35% in high-stakes cases before the Roberts Court, the lowest win rate for high-stakes cases since the 1937 term.
Partisanship may also play a role, Epstein and Brown concluded. The presidential win rate before justices appointed by that president was 58% in high-stakes case before the Roberts Court, compared to 36% before Roberts Court justices not appointed by a president.
In an email to the New York Times, Epstein and Brown said they can’t say whether Trump’s poor performance “speaks to the court’s view of him and his administration or to the justices’ increasing willingness to check executive authority.”
“Either way, though, the data suggest a bumpy road for Trump in cases implicating presidential power,” they wrote in the email.
The New York Times points outs that several Trump cases “are at the court or on its threshold,” including cases on immunity from prosecution, the viability of an election-interference charge, and whether Colorado can bar Trump from the ballot.
On Wednesday, Trump asked the Supreme Court to quickly rule in the Colorado case and “return the right to vote for their candidate of choice to the voters,” the Washington Post reports.