Obama’s Pick Would Help the Court. (Liberal Causes, Not So Much.) – Bloomberg View
If conservatives have nothing to fear from Garland, then liberals should beware: If he is confirmed, the court’s new liberal majority is not going to start marching off in their preferred directions. Garland himself is an incrementalist who respects democratic self-government; he is cautious about the uses of judicial authority. And outside the context of same-sex marriage, the current liberals have not shown much enthusiasm for recognizing brand-new rights, or for using the Constitution as an engine for social reform.
Replacing Scalia with Garland would nonetheless be important. Here’s why.
To the enthusiastic cheers of many people on the right, the court’s conservatives (including Scalia) have shown an occasional inclination to make significant breaks with existing law; most famously by giving broad protection to corporate campaign contributions in the Citizens United case, but also by limiting people’s right to sue government, by giving broad protection to commercial advertising, and by striking down any and all affirmative action programs.
With Garland on the court, you wouldn’t see much left-wing activism — but you would see a lot less right-wing activism, too. Over the last decade, much of the energy for dramatic shifts in the law has come from Scalia and Clarence Thomas, occasionally joined by John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy. If Garland is confirmed, those shifts will be far less likely.