"Whether that 'seismic shift,' as Roberts described it, was a good thing is up for debate, though there's little question that Rehnquist was behind the move."
I'd like to see the whole text of that speech. Why did Roberts say that it might not be a good thing? When I first saw the quote that I put in this post title, I thought: Well, that's typical of how each side characterizes what it is doing. We're the judges who are doing real legal analysis, and those others are result-oriented and pursuing their own personal preferences and acting like a legislature. But apparently, it wasn't one of these we're-good-you're-bad remarks. It sounds as though he probably said that everyone on the Court has switched to writing opinions with carefully elaborated legal arguments, and the difference is not between the liberals and conservatives (and centrists) on the Court, but between the Court now and the Court before the Rehnquist. I was just teaching Griswold v. Connecticut the other day and thinking: They would never write this opinion this way if it came up today. It looks so carelessly slapped together by today's standards, yet you can tell by the tone that they thought they were doing a fine job.
But what was good about the old style of opinion-writing? What are we missing? Without more of the text of the speech, I can only guess at what Roberts may have said, but I'm thinking that what we miss are the opportunities for insight into what made the Justices think about things the way they did. There's an immediacy to those old cases. The reader doesn't feel that a squad of bookish law clerks has replaced all human feeling and intuition with properly scholarly verbosity. All that verbiage distances us and makes the layperson think: It certainly looks like they know what they're doing. In fact, it may be utter nonsense, but good luck figuring that out.
It's tiresome, workmanlike, and uninspiring. In such an environment, who will care much about the role of the Constitution limiting whatever it is government decides to do to us?
If Rehnquist represents something Roberts is ambivalent about, does Roberts aspire to his own seismic shift?