Poll numbers down, justices say they aren’t politicians

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Three Supreme Court justices have made the same plea in rapid succession in recent days: don’t see judges as politicians.

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Judges have reason to be concerned. Recent elections have seen a sharp drop in court approvals dominated by conservatives.

A call by Justices Clarence Thomas Stephen Breyer and Amy Connie Barrett for the public not to see the court’s decision as merely an extension of partisan politics is not new. But the timing of the recent comments is significant, right after a summer in which a conservative majority in court prevailed over liberal dissent over abortion, immigration and eviction, and at the start of a blockbuster period.


The future of abortion rights and gun expansion and religious rights is already at risk. Other controversial matters may be added. The result in each could disband the court along ideological lines, with the court’s six conservative judges elected by Republican presidents who prevailed over the three liberals nominated by Democrats.

For some observers, the Supreme Court is facing the gravest threat to its legitimacy since its decision two decades ago in Bush v. Gore, which divided liberals and conservatives and favored Republican George W. effectively settled the presidential election.

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“I think we have come to a turning point. If within certain conditions we see the right-side ruling on left-side dissent on every single one of the most politically divisive issues of our time – voting, guns, Abortion, religion, affirmative action — the perception of the court may have been permanently changed,” said Irv Gornstein, executive director of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown University.

Paul Smith, who has argued before the court in support of LGBTQ and voting rights among other issues, said people are upset that “the court is the way to the American people’s rights on a lot of issues.”

But the court’s views have fallen first, then reversed, from a public that does not pay much attention to the work of the court and has trouble identifying most judges.

Tom Goldstein, founder of the court-focused SCOTUSblog website, which frequently argues in front of judges, doubts this time will be any different. He says the court has created “a great font of public respect, no matter what.”

Nevertheless, Thomas, Breuer and Barrett took the notion of the court as political in recent speeches and interviews.

Breyer, the court’s 83rd oldest member and leader of its weak liberal wing, has spoken for years about the danger of viewing the court as “junior league politicians”.

But he acknowledged that it may be difficult to counter the notion that judges are acting politically, especially after cases such as Texas in which the court refused to enforce the state’s ban on abortion in pregnancy by a 5-4 vote. done. The majority was made up of three judges appointed by President Donald Trump and two other conservatives, with three liberals and Chief Justice John Roberts dissenting.

“It’s so hard to believe that when it comes to a case like this, we’re less divided than you think,” Breyer said in an interview with The Washington Post earlier this month.

Barrett soon echoed Breuer’s comments.

“My goal today is to convince you that this court is not involved in a bunch of partisan hacks,” Trump’s nominee said at a talk in Louisville, Kentucky, at a center named after Kentucky Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who were sitting. On the stage near justice.

McConnell’s quick confirmation of Barrett came just days before last year’s presidential election and more than a month after the death of liberal icon, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett’s confirmation was arguably the most political of any member of the court. He was confirmed by a vote of 52–48, which was not the first time in modern times with the support of a minority party.

McConnell’s push to confirm Barrett in the final days before the election was in stark contrast to his decision to open the seat held by Justice Antonin Scalia, when Scalia died months before the election in 2016 and President Barack Obama, a Democrat. , had sought to name a replacement. .

In an appearance a few days after Barrett’s, Thomas said that the judges themselves were to blame for changing the court’s perceptions of the roles associated with elected officials. “The court was considered the least dangerous branch and the most dangerous we can be,” he said at the University of Notre Dame, where Barrett taught law for many years.

Three new polls, conducted after the court’s Texas abortion vote, have shown a sharp drop in court approval. According to the latest Gallup poll, only 40% of Americans approve of the court. This is the lowest it has been since Gallup started asking this question more than 20 years ago. Acceptance was 49% in July.

Changes in court structure and disputes over Trump’s three nominees have prompted liberal groups to expand the court and institute term limits for judges with lifelong terms under the Constitution.

At the moment, those changes are unlikely to be successful. But one group, Demand Justice, said last week that it plans to spend more than $100,000 on advertising in the coming weeks to promote the idea of ​​expanding the courtroom. And a court reform commission set up by President Joe Biden is due to release a report by November.

Some court watchers feel that the efforts of liberal groups, rather than the actions of the court, are responsible for changing views…

Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Supreme Court

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