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   Study: Justices More Likely To Support Free Speech They Agree With

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5/6/2014 2:00 pm

Author

SAHIL KAPUR

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News

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Entered 5/6/2014, Updated 5/6/2014

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In the Supreme Court, free speech is often a partisan issue. Justices -- liberal and conservative -- are more likely to vote for free-speech rights when the speaker shares their ideology, according to an eye-opening new study by the University of Southern California which looks at 4,519 votes from 1953 to 2011 and concludes that "justices are opportunistic free speechers." The most opportunistic member over that span was found to be Justice Antonin Scalia, who was just over three times as supportive of free-speech rights of conservatives as compared to liberals. Not far behind him was Justice Clarence Thomas, who was just under three times as likely to back conservatives' free-speech rights over liberals. Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor -- both Reagan appointees, and often swing votes -- were also found to have a statistically significant preference for free speech rights of conservatives over liberals. The disparity exists with liberal members, too. Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was likelier to support the free speech claim by a liberal as compared to a conservative. Clinton appointees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer were not found to have a statistically significant preference in their cases.


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