Joseph P. Nadeau’s June 10 op-ed Sunday “Dissents undermine the highest court” expressed the peculiar view that the US Supreme Court should appear more united by suppressing dissent. Those pesky justices who disagree in 5-4 decisions should just shut up. Nadeau, a retired associate justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, acknowledged “there have been some notable dissents in the past 200 years,” but he failed to note that what start as dissents are sometimes so persuasive that they’re adopted as the majority decision.
A better way to get a single decision would be for the justices to look for more agreement. The Warren court managed unanimous decisions on both the 1954 school desegregation case and a case outlawing segregated buses. It was the court’s unanimity, not a ban on dissent, that gave the decisions great moral force.
Few of us would revile court decisions such as Bush v. Gore or dread the coming decision on health care if the justices worked together like that. A collaborative decision on Bush v. Gore might have been to recount all the Florida votes.