Chief Justice Rehnquist, when he was an associate justice, was often on the losing end of 8-1 votes, Professor Strauss said. When he became chief, he moved conspicuously to the center.
Lee Epstein, a law professor and political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, said the data supported that view. Before his elevation, Justice Rehnquist dissented 21 percent of the time. Once he became chief justice, the rate dropped to 16 percent. The difference is statistically significant.
Perhaps in an effort to keep control of opinion assignment, Rehnquist dissented less frequently and, as a result, moved to the left, Professor Epstein said.
Chief Justice Roberts has used his power vigorously and strategically. He has kept major opinions for himself, partly to shape and hone them and partly because it seems fitting for the chief justice to speak for the court in big cases. He has assigned other important majority opinions to trusted allies, notably Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
If the chief justice is in the minority, the assignment power shifts to the senior justice in the majority, meaning the one with ...