Justice Thomas is Author of 40% of the Lone Dissents in 8-1 Opinions Over Last 4 Terms

June 24th, 2010

Today in Doe v. Reed, Justice Thomas stood as the only Justice willing to find the disclosure of the names unconstitutional.. Another 8-1 Constitutional Decision, with Justice Thomas again the lone dissenter.

This is a trend. Over the last 4 terms, Justice Thomas has been the author of ten out of a total twenty-five 8-1 (and 7-1 in the case of recusals) opinions. At 40%, that is far more than any other justice. Justice Thomas is known as the most principled Justice, and the numbers seem to bear this out. He is the least willing to compromise, and most willing to stand up for his beliefs.

Here is the breakdown:

October 2009 Term

During the October 2009 term, there have been (to date) six 8-1 opinions. Thomas dissented in Doe v. Reed. Although not in dissent, this term in Citizens United v. FEC, Justice Thomas was the only Justice willing to strike down the disclosure requirements of the campaign finance reform laws.

October 2008 Term

During the October 2008 term, there were four 8-1 opinions. In three of those cases, Justice Thomas was the only dissenter. In NAMUDNO, Justice Thomas was the only Justice willing to strike down provisions of the voting rights act. Also in Safford United School District #1 v. Redding, Justice Thomas was the only Justice to find that strip-searching a student at a public school in search of drugs was constitutional. In Negusie v. Mukasey, Thomas was the only Justice that found that an asylum law clearly bars asylum for anyone who harmed others in the home country.

October 2007 Term

During the October 2007 term, there were six 8-1 opinions. Justice Thomas dissented in 4 of these cases. In Preston v. Ferrer. In a 4-sentence dissent, Justice Thomas wrote, “As I have stated on many previous occasions, I believe that the Federal Arbitration Act … does not apply to proceedings in state courts.” Justice Thomas also dissented in Gonzalez v. US, finding that the Federal Magistrates Act does not authorize district judges to delegate felony jury selection to magistrate judges. In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, Thomas concurred in part and dissented in part, refusing to side with the employees because he does not believe the ADEA permits disparate impact claims at all. In Rothgery v. Gillespie County, Thomas again was the lone dissenter, finding that neither the original meaning of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel nor our precedents interpreting the scope of that right supports the Court’s holding that the right attaches at an initial appearance before a magistrate.

October 2006 Term

During the October 2006 term, there seven 8-1 cases and two 7-1 cases. Thomas dissented in two out of the nine cases. In Medimmune v. Genentech, Thomas was the lone dissenter. In Lopez v. Gonzales, again Justice Thomas was the only dissenter.