95 Minn. L. Rev. 1 (2010-2011)

handle is hein.journals/mnlr95 and id is 1 raw text is: Lecture

The Role of Dissenting Opinions
Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburgt
The remarks I have prepared concern the role of dissenting
opinions in the U.S. judicial system generally, and the U.S. Su-
preme Court in particular. It is a subject I have had to think
about more than occasionally in recent terms.
Our Chief Justice, in his 2005 confirmation hearings, ex-
pressed admiration for the nation's fourth Chief Justice, John
Marshall-frontrunner for the title of greatest Chief Justice in
U.S. history. Our current Chief admired, perhaps most of all,
Chief Justice Marshall's unparalleled ability to achieve consen-
sus among his colleagues. During his tenure, which ran from
1801 until 1835, the Court spoke with one voice most of the
time. Two contributors to Marshall's success: in the early years
of his tenure, all members of the Court resided and dined to-
gether in the same boarding house whenever the Justices con-
vened in the Capital City; and the Chief-sometimes after din-
ner followed by Madeira-volunteered to write most of the
In Chief Justice Roberts's first year at the helm, notably
also Justice O'Connor's last term on our bench, it appeared that
the new Chief's hope for greater unanimity might be realized.
In the 2005-2006 Term, forty-five percent of the cases we took
up for review were decided unanimously, with but one opinion
for the Court, and fifty-five percent were unanimous in the bot-
tom-line judgment.' In the most recent term, 2008-2009, we
slipped precipitously. With Justice O'Connor no longer at our
conference table, the Court spoke with one voice in only nine-
teen percent (fifteen) of the term's seventy-nine decisions, and
t Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States. Presentation
to the Harvard Club of Washington, D.C., on December 17, 2009. Copyright C
2010 by Hon. Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
1. Statistics for the Supreme Court's October Term 2005, SCOTUSBLOG,
http://www.scotusblog.com/archives/OpinionBreakdownFinal.pdf (last visited
Sept. 26, 2010).


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