Over at TAPPED, Scott Lemieux makes the case that we have more to fear from Alito and Roberts than we do from Thomas and Scalia:
Scalia and Thomas, at least when there’s no conflict with strongly held policy preferences, will have their ideological conservatism constrained by legal policy goals which don’t always produce conservative results. Alito and Roberts, conversely, are free to be much more slavishly pro-business — marrying O’Connor-style unprincipled “minimalism” to a much more conservative ideology is the most dangerous combination of all. If you’re a left-liberal, you’d much rather have Scalia or Thomas than Alito.
The occasion for this commentary was the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a $79.5 million punitive damage award against Altria (nee Phillip Morris). Dissenting were the unlikely foursome of Ginsburg, Stevens, Thomas and Scalia.
Though the court punted on the biggest constitutional question — whether a punitive damage award could be large enough to be in and of itself a constituional violation — the decision does not bode well for the future of this court, or the Bush appointees. While the “hot button” social issues tend to get the most attention, a lot of the Court’s work is in refereeing inevitable disputes between business and the state. This gives a pretty good indication of which side is more likely to get a sympathetic hearing.