Study shows Supreme Court justices working together in unprecedented ways last term

The Supreme Court is working together in unprecedented ways, according to a new analysis of the high court’s most recent term.

Noting that the size of the justices’ majority in any given case is a sign of the high court’s cohesion, Adam Feldman of Empirical SCOTUS crunched the data and found 2016 was one of only three terms this century “with an average majority size of at least six justices more than the average dissent size.”

“With an eight-member court as the court had for the most of the term, this means that majority sizes averaged more than seven justices to a dissent average of one justice,” Feldman wrote.

The justices also moved faster to decide the controversies before them than during the two previous terms, averaging 91.73 days between oral argument and opinion release, per Feldman, which may suggest it took the justices less time to reach consensus than in recent years. Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the high court in April with only a few months remaining in the term, which may also have led the eight-justice court to avoid tackling the most controversial issues while it awaited having a full bench again.

Feldman’s analysis also found the most recent term marked the first time that Justices Elena Kagan and Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not dissent from any of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinions. Similarly, the most recent term served as the first time Alito did not dissent from one of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s opinions since 2013 and the first time Justice Clarence Thomas did not dissent from Sotomayor since 2011.

Whether the Supreme Court’s right- and left-leaning blocs actions in the most recent term are part of a growing trend or an isolated event following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia remains to be seen.