The Supreme Court is teetering on the brink of 'irreversible' damage to its legitimacy: Law professor
Supreme Court as of 2018 (Photo: Supreme Court)

On Monday, writing for The Atlantic, Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler outlined the current reputational crisis facing the Supreme Court in the wake of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's passing.

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems ready to test just how much damage the Court’s institutional integrity can take," wrote Ziegler. However, "regardless of what McConnell does, the Court now looks far more conservative than the electorate. That too doesn’t bode well for the Court’s legitimacy, especially when the justices could once again decide the result of a presidential election. The Court may have to wade into one of the hundreds of voting-rights lawsuits triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Meanwhile, "Democrats fed up with the status quo have toyed with the idea of packing the Court—adding more members to create a more liberal majority," wrote Ziegler. "But if they do pursue this strategy, there would certainly be damage to the Court’s reputation. Many already view the Court as a partisan institution. They are right. There is a reason that Ginsburg did not retire during Trump’s presidency—or Anthony Kennedy during Barack Obama’s second term. But the Court need not be only a political institution. The justices see themselves as judges, not partisans."

"Democrats and Republicans alike will have to weigh whether the short-term gains of transforming the Court are worth the price," warned Ziegler. "The two sides could even broker a compromise. If Republicans wait to confirm a replacement for Ginsburg, the Democrats could wait to pack the Court. At the moment, though, neither shows signs of deescalating ... The rest of America should hope that the country’s political leaders pause before the damage to the Court’s reputation becomes irreversible."

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