Is the U.S. Supreme Court losing public legitimacy?

The Signal

Is the U.S. Supreme Court losing public legitimacy? Christopher W. Schmidt on the fallout from an extraordinary judicial term in Washington.
Sarah Penney
Sarah Penney
The Supreme Court of the United States is now “illegitimate,“ according to no less an established figure in the American political system than the chairman of the Democratic Party, Jaime Harrison. The Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the same through a megaphone to protesters on the Court’s steps, while the Democratic senator Ed Markey described it as having been captured by a “stolen, illegitimate, and far-right majority.” They all belonged to a national chorus responding to the Court’s decision last month in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned 1972’s Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to an abortion in America. Yet as their rhetoric indicates, the criticism isn’t just of the legal reasoning in one high-profile case; it’s of the Court as an institution facing a “legitimacy crisis,” as public confidence in its performance has dropped to a historic low. What’s happened?

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