This is a myth and no matter how much the mantra is uttered, it remains a myth.
For those who have a shred of integrity, there is the beginning of a breakdown of the myth. Dahlia Lithwick describes this past week as "a shockingly progressive set of decisions from a supposedly conservative court." To which former Clinton solicitor general Walter Dellinger agrees:
But the number of progressive results is close to stunning.In fact, this Court is a liberal court.
The method of funding of Legal Services for the poor by "taking" the interest on lawyers trust accounts is upheld against a property rights challenge. The Family Medical Leave Act is upheld as applied to the states, in spite of strong case law on state sovereignty. Justice Powell's lone opinion in Bakke sustaining the use of race for diversity becomes the opinion of the court. A capital case is overturned because of ineffective assistance of counsel. The retroactive extension of the time for bringing sex abuse charges is held unconstitutional. Bowers v. Hardwick is overruled.
Consider: the twin big rulings of the past term: upholding state sponsored racial discrimination and discovering right to homosexual activity.
In the prior term the Court ruled for pornographers striking down the Child Pornography Prevention Act of 1996. It further ruled that executions of mentally retarded criminals are "cruel and unusual punishments" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. (This is as good a point as any to add that I don't necessarily disagree with the court on these rulings -- my point is that this is a "conservative court" is a myth.)
In the 2000-2001 term the Court ruled the ADA required the PGA to provide Casey Martin a golf cart, allowed the jailing of people for failing to wear a seat belt, and did something involving Al Gore.
In the 1999-2000 term, the Court struck down a state law prohibiting partial birth abortion, banned student led prayers before football games, and reaffirmed the Miranda decision (it should be remembered that Miranda was a 5-4 decision of the Warren court, this was 7-2, with Rehnquist writing the opinion).
In prior terms, the Court struck down the Line-Item Veto, held that school districts can be liable under Federal law for offenses by students, and struck down a state initiative effectively granting special gay rights in Colorado.
In fact, this is a liberal court with a few bones tossed to the right.