One Fact Sums Up The Problem With the L.A. Times Editorial

About Justice O'Connor's role on the Supreme Court -- the opening sentence is flat wrong. That sentence reads:

One fact sums up Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's pivotal role on the Supreme Court and the enormity of her resignation -- she alone was in the majority of every one of the court's 13 5-4 decisions this last term.

But as Patterico points out, Justice O'Connor was in the dissent in the 5-4 takings "public use" case; in the 5-4 case involving the execution of 16-year-olds; in the 5-4 cases involving the Sentencing Guidelines; in the 5-4 Twenty-First Amendment/Commerce Clause wine shipment case; and more. According to SCOTUSblog (please note that I have not checked the data myself, but I find SCOTUSblog to be quite reliable), she was in the majority last term in 14 of the 24 5-4 decisions. A bit of quick math will tell you that in those decisions, an average Justice would be in the majority in 24*5/9 = 13.333 decisions.

Now ultimately Justice O'Connor was the swing vote in quite a few important cases during her time on the Court; yet by erroneously overstating this tendency, the Times has done a disservice to its readers.

Note also that, as of now (11:13 am Monday morning), neither the original story nor the Corrections page. On the off chance that no-one has yet alerted the Times to this, I sent them a comment this morning; I hope they correct this promptly and prominently (more prominently than is usual for their corrections).

(And, yes, I noticed the "enormity" usage glitch, but I leave that to be discussed by people who are more prescriptivist than I am. To me, the usage is probably more inelegant and ambiguous than "wrong," if the authors meant "enormity" here as "enormous importance," though it would show a great lack of proportion if they meant "enormity" in the more "official" sense of "monstrous evil.")