Theodore Olsen, Sonia Sotomayor,  Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.

NEWS ANALYSIS

By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau
June 22, 2013, 10:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The leadership of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will be put to a major test this week when the Supreme Court hands down its decisions on college affirmative action, voting rights and gay marriage.

The conventional view has been that the court will fracture 5 to 4 along ideological lines in all three areas. But that presents Roberts with a difficult choice. He could join his fellow conservatives to win at least some of the major cases and preside over a deeply divided court. Or he could use his authority to seek a narrow middle ground.

The conservatives, Roberts among them, have been steadily critical of government policies that put an emphasis on race. They have questioned whether race-based admission at state universities and federal scrutiny of Southern voting laws are still justified today.

But the court’s four liberals would surely dissent angrily if the court were to strike down the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965 and prohibit all college affirmative action.

At the same time, the liberals, joined by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, have been seen as likely to support same-sex marriage. However, the conservatives would dissent loudly if the majority were to make gay marriage a constitutional right.

Increasingly in recent years, Roberts has taken the more moderate course. In speeches and interviews, the chief justice has spoken of his devotion to the rule of law and of his aim to preserve the court as a legal forum, not a political tribunal.

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