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America Doesn’t Trust the Supreme Court Anymore

Clarence Thomas Supreme Court
Sonny Perdue is sworn in as the 31st Secretary of Agriculture by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with his wife Mary and family April 25, 2017, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.. Photo by Preston Keres

Trust in most U.S. institutions – including Congress, the White House, the media, academia – has been marred as the poles of society move further and further from each other. The judicial branch was more resilient to the reputational harm that the other branches of our government have suffered. But now, the judiciary, too, is suffering from reputational harm – and increasingly, is being perceived as a political institution.

“A new Gallup poll set for release today shows a drop in approval of and confidence in the Supreme Court,” POLITICO reported. Specifically, the Gallup poll found that “less than half of Americans say they have a ‘great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government, representing a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year.”

That the public’s trust in the Supreme Court has plummeted is significant; the court has mostly been immune to polarization, stubbornly retaining bipartisan support even as the poles widened. Historically, the Supreme Court has been above two-thirds. “This is the lowest confidence rating for the judicial branch in Gallup’s trend by six points. The judicial branch’s current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup’s trend since 1972,” POLITICO reported.

Accounting for the Sharp Decline

The reason for the sharp decline? Democrats. The Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe’s abortion-protecting precedent, has ruined Democrat’s opinion of the court. “The drop in trust … is driven largely by a sharp decline among Democrats, whose level of trust is half of what it was one year ago. The new poll marks the first time that less than half of Democrats and independents express faith in the judicial branch.” 

Not surprisingly, the Gallup poll also found that a record-tying-low of U.S. citizens approve of the court’s performance. And, naturally, given the court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, “a record high percentage of Americans say the Supreme Court is ‘too conservative.’”

As the public’s trust in the Supreme Court erodes, fissures within the court itself have become visible; curiously, in a departure from orthodox, the justice’s are sparring publicly about the court’s legitimacy – harkening some vintage Bill Clinton: “the president is relevant,”

Justice Elena Kagan said that “the very worst moments [in the court’s history] have been times when judges have even essentially reflected one party’s or one ideology’s set of views in their legal decisions. The thing that builds up reservoirs of public confidence is the court acting like a court and not acting like an extension of the political process.” 

Kagan continued, “if, over time, the court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy.”

The Supreme Court is Not a Democratic Institution

I’d like to interject here: one, the Supreme Court is inherently undemocratic. Nine unelected officials, all of whom are products of the same two law schools (with the exception of Justice Amy Coney Barrett) is not a democratic institution; two, the Supreme Court is not necessarily meant to reflect public sentiment – that’s what democratically elected officials are for. The Supreme Court is meant to interpret legal questions, in adherence to the Constitution, fully divorced from the sentiments of the public.

The judiciary is not an organ of policy-making or law-making – and it should not be susceptible to the whims and wishes of the public. If the general public wants to preserve abortion rights, great. Elect officials who feel similarly and codify abortion rights. The court is not reliant on public opinion. Just remember that there was a time when the general public sentiment was aligned with preserving slavery. But similarly, Kagan is absolutely correct in that the court should not be acting as an extension of a political party. 

Extending the bizarre spurt of judiciary behavior, Kagan’s remarks were met with reciprocal remarks from Chief Justice John Roberts. “Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.” Justice Samuel Alito, who penned the Dobbs ruling, made similar comments. “It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decision and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” Alito said.

“We cannot recall the last time justices sparred with each other in the press in this manner,” POLITICO reported.  

Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. GhostTomahawk

    September 30, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Just because you don’t agree doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust anyone.

    If that is how you or a segment of society feel then, perhaps you should re-evaluate your coping skills. Agree/disagree doesn’t matter when it comes to the laws of this nation. Get over yourselves.

  2. Scottfs

    September 30, 2022 at 6:17 pm

    LOL. As soon as I read the title of this article,I had to know it was written by the same guy who pines for AOC as president.

    In other words, as delusional.

    All Dobbs did, for example, was correct a 50-year wrong; there is no Constitutional protection for 9 month abortion. That is 100% up to the legislative branch. Too bad the author doesn’t like democracy.

    Sorry, Kass. Go dream more about AOC and Buttegieg.

  3. Steven

    September 30, 2022 at 6:37 pm

    Liberals are scum.

  4. Jack Cross

    September 30, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    People have spent the last 5 years listening to Democrats heated illegitimate court rhetoric. Surprise they confidence in the court has gone down.

  5. Him

    October 1, 2022 at 12:59 am

    Each person forms their opinion based on their worldview.

    If you see that a woman’s rights override the life of the foetus, then you won’t trust the Supreme Court.

    If you hold that human life is sacred, and that even before it develops to the point of feeling pain, that human life still exists – then you would rejoice at the Supreme Court decision in “Dobbs”.

    It all hinges on the person’s worldview.

    Trouble is, the Far Left and Left control the Media, hence, influence the narrative to make it sound as if everyone was enraged at Dobbs.

    You can tell America’s slide to the Far Left by how much of the Media brands the new Italian PM as “Far Right” – for merely holding conversative values which, a few years ago, were seen as Centre by the majority of Americans.

  6. Quartermaster

    October 2, 2022 at 10:19 am

    Recent decisions in the courts have called into question the legitimacy of the courts. From eminent domain to election integrity, the judiciary has covered itself in shame.

  7. Philthegardner

    October 3, 2022 at 12:10 am

    The author spelled it out clearly. The reason for the sharp decline in trust for the Judicial branch? DEMOCRATS.
    Couldn’t have said it more clearly. The weakening of institutions designed to counterbalance centers of power in a democratic republic are clearly the result of efforts from a single political party more interested in keeping power than fostering national good. Because to them, THEIR WAY IS THE ONLY WAY.
    It is becoming increasingly clear that the leftist ideology needs a major enema if the country expects to thrive in the future.

  8. Thomas

    October 3, 2022 at 10:15 am

    Oh Harrison, Why don’t you just come out and admit it. You are a Black Bloc ANTIFA member. You are a commie. No one cares what the you think. Your articles suck, go write for CNN or MSNBC. Typical trash we expect from you.

  9. Doug

    October 6, 2022 at 10:30 pm

    During the confirmation process Kavanaugh and Gorsuch knew precisely what the senators were asking them. So they gave carefully constructed answers that they knew would create a false impression that they would uphold Roe.
    Surprise surprise, they voted to get rid of Roe.
    That is why trust in the supreme court has fallen.

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