Brett Kavanaugh Is Supreme Court's Ideological Median as New Term Begins

The U.S. Supreme Court's new term began on Monday and the nation's highest court could hand down crucial decisions on issues including abortion rights and the Second Amendment.

The court currently has a 6-3 conservative majority, while Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who belongs to the conservative bloc, is currently the court's ideological median.

This means he has been in the majority more than any other justice.

According to analysis by SCOTUSblog published at the end of the 2020-2021 Supreme Court term on July 2, Kavanaugh was in the majority 97 percent of the time.

SCOTUSblog was set up in 2002 by husband and wife Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe and describes itself as committed to covering the court "comprehensively, without bias and according to the highest journalistic and legal ethical standards."

The last Supreme Court term began on October 5, 2020 and the final opinions were issued on July 1 and 2, 2021.

It was also Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett's first term and her appointment appears to have shifted the ideological position of the court to the right.

Kavanaugh, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, was in the majority 97 percent of the time. This figure includes cases that were unanimously decided and those where there was a split vote.

Forty-three percent of decisions were unanimous in the last term, less than the 46 percent average over the past decade.

In terms of cases where the court was divided, Kavanaugh was in the majority 95 percent of the time. This means he has supplanted Chief Justice John Roberts as the justice most commonly in the majority.

Roberts was previously the court's ideological median as he had been in the majority for 97 percent of cases during the court term that ended in July, 2020. He was also the only justice to be in the majority on 95 percent of divided cases during that term.

It will not be clear whether Kavanaugh remains the court's ideological median until this term's final opinions are issued in July, 2022.

When the court had a 5-4 conservative majority, Roberts was widely considered the crucial swing vote and sometimes sided with the four liberal justices on key cases, often to the chagrin of conservatives.

He cast the deciding vote in a 2012 case that upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, and he voted to uphold the law again in 2015.

However, the changed composition of the court has seen Roberts' influence decline. He joined the liberal justices in dissenting when the majority voted not to grant a stay of a controversial Texas abortion ban in early September.

The court's apparent ideological shift could have major implications in the new term as the justices will rule on a Mississippi abortion law that is a direct challenge to the precedent laid down in 1973's landmark Roe v. Wade.

They will also rule on major cases involving firearms regulations in New York and the use of Maine's tuition assistance program for religious schools, among others.

Brett Kavanaugh Pictured at His Swearing-In Ceremony
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh attends his ceremonial swearing in the East Room of the White House, October 2018. Analysis from the last Supreme Court term shows Kavanaugh is now the court's ideological median. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images