Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts fired back on Friday at critics who question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.
What is the background?
Democrats began openly questioning the court’s legitimacy and advocating for court-packing during the Trump presidency because Donald Trump managed to change the ideological composition of the court with three appointments.
When the court thus began issuing rulings that cut against the progressive agenda — especially when the court overturned Roe v. Wade, a case that even pro-abortion jurists believe was a poorly argued decision — the legitimacy questions reached a fever pitch.
The rhetoric became a dangerous reality when angry protesters gathered outside the homes of conservative-leaning justices earlier this summer. One California man even traveled to Brett Kavanaugh’s home with the alleged motive of assassinating him.
What did Roberts say?
Speaking at a law conference in Colorado Springs, Roberts condemned activists who question the legitimacy of the court because of rulings they do not like.
“The court has always decided controversial cases and decisions have always been subject to intense criticism, and that is entirely appropriate,” Roberts said.
“But I don’t understand the connection between the opinions people disagree with and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court,” he added.
Roberts, who has found himself as the court’s swing vote, made it clear that neither Congress, the president, nor the public should determine how the Supreme Court rules on cases.
“You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is. And you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is,” Roberts said, the Washington Post reported. “Yes, all of our opinions are open to criticism. In fact, our members do a great job of criticizing some opinions from time to time. But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court.”
He later reiterated that the Supreme Court’s role, established by the Constitution, “doesn’t change simply because people disagree with this opinion or that opinion or with a particular mode of jurisprudence.”
Ironically, Roberts’ defense of the institution he leads came on the same day that Vice President Kamala Harris made headlines for attacking its legitimacy.
In an interview with NBC anchor Chuck Todd, Harris described the Supreme Court as an “activist court” for overturning Roe.
“We had an established right for almost a half a century … and this court took that constitutional right away — and we are suffering as a nation because of it,” she told Todd when asked about her description.