James Taranto points out a significant, if subtle, consequence of ACB’s appointment to the Supreme Court:
“The chief justice is an especially potent swing voter, because he also has the power to assign authorship of the majority opinion, including to himself. That can help shape a decision’s scope and direction—usually, in Chief Justice Roberts’s case, by making it more tentative.
“If the chief justice is in dissent, however, the assignment power falls to the most senior associate justice in the majority. Clarence Thomas is now the most senior justice, so he will assign authorship any time he is in the majority and Chief Justice Roberts dissents…
“So what does Chief Justice Roberts do when the associate justices split 5-3 along familiar lines? If he joins the liberals and makes it 5-4, Justice Thomas gets to assign the majority opinion and perhaps induce the court to a bolder conclusion. If the chief justice joins the majority, he makes the assignment. The resulting 6-3 decision will likely be less sweeping, but it won’t be liberal. Those who hoped for a conservative chief justice 15 years ago may finally get one.”
This sounds like a good thing to me. And interesting for showing that how a thing works can be as important what it does.