As recent polls have shown, Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court is at an all-time low, which presumably has something to do with the decision by the Court’s conservatives to inflict their medieval ideas about bodily autonomy on the country and end the national right to an abortion in June. Might it also have something to do with one of the justice’s spouses reportedly attempting to overturn the 2020 election and another securing his lifetime appointment without actually being properly vetted by the FBI? Yes, sure. But the biggie is no doubt the overturning of Roe v. Wade. (No, really: You don’t have to be a constitutional law expert to figure this out, seeing as a majority of Americans think abortion should be legal in all or most instances.)
Justice Elena Kagan—who happens to be one of the few people on the Court who doesn’t believe half of the population should be treated like second-class citizens—recently pointed this out. At a July judicial conference in Big Sky, Montana, she told an audience: “If, over time, the Court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy.” Earlier this month, while speaking on a panel at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, she declared that a court is legitimate “when it’s acting like a court,” and that it’s a problem when justices attempt to impose their personal preferences on society. And last week, she made similar remarks at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, saying that throughout the Court’s history, “The very worst moments 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’s comments don’t appear to be sitting very well with certain male justices. As Chief Justice John Roberts told a judicial conference in Colorado Springs, “Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the Court.” But it was Samuel Alito’s response that was the most creepy, given the very clear problem he has has with women.
In a comment to The Wall Street Journal, the archconservative said: “It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions 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.” In other words, he wants Elena Kagan to shut her liberal mouth, which is not only some anti-free-speech bullshit but a convenient way for him to ignore the fact that he shares a large portion of the blame for the widely held view that the Court has no integrity.
Of course, Alito’s comment to the Journal shouldn’t surprise many people who’ve kept up with his work. Not only did he author the opinion overturning Roe v. Wade in June, but he gleefully noted that his inspiration for doing so was a 17th-century English jurist who supported marital rape and had women executed for witchcraft. Later, after a 10-year-old rape victim was denied an abortion in her home state, Alito was doing comedy routines about taking away a pregnant person’s right to choose.
Of course, let’s not forget the other justice who’s done his part to erode confidence in the Supreme Court