In the next several months, the Supreme Court will decide at least a half-dozen cases about the rights of people accused of crimes involving drugs, sex and corruption. Civil liberties groups and associations of defense lawyers have lined up on the side of the accused.
But so have conservative, libertarian and business groups. Their briefs and public statements are signs of an emerging consensus on the right that the criminal justice system is an aspect of big government that must be contained.
Libertarians and civil liberties groups have long agreed on many of these issues. The surprise is that prominent conservatives (e.g., former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese) have moved into the libertarian camp.
the conservative re-evaluation of crime policy is not universal, of course. Two notable exceptions to the trend, said Timothy Lynch, director of the Cato Institute’s criminal justice project, are Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.
Still, with Justices Thomas and Scalia in the limited government camp, some reigning in of the worst abuses seems possible.