NewsHour: Analysis – Legal Experts Review High Court – July 3, 2006

MARGARET WARNER: It was the Supreme Court’s inaugural term under Chief Justice John Roberts, the first new chief in two decades. The blockbuster ruling of this term, involving presidential power in time of war, didn’t emerge until the final day last week.

But, before then, the court issued 68 decisions on legal controversies, ranging from political redistricting to physician-assisted suicide, and from the death penalty and other criminal law matters to military recruitment on college campuses. The term was notable, too, for the midway replacement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor by new justice Samuel Alito.

We assess the term now with four longtime court watchers: in California, Douglas Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University Law School; and Kathleen Sullivan, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University and former dean of its law school; and, here in Washington: Stuart Taylor, a columnist for The Legal Times and senior writer for "National Journal" magazine; and Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University and legal affairs editor at "The New Republic," and, I should say, author of a new book as well about the courts.

Welcome to you all.

If this is the beginning of the Roberts’ era, Kathleen Sullivan, to what degree did he put a distinctive stamp on this court?

KATHLEEN SULLIVAN, Constitutional Law Center Director, Stanford University: Margaret, the term this year is best described as the Roberts conservative court in waiting. He was unable to put a clear stamp on the court in any new direction.

And let’s make no mistake about it. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito are very conservative. Justice Alito voted with the conservative bloc 15 percent more of the time than Justice O’Connor, whom he replaced.