Supreme Court increasingly facing crisis of legitimacy amid scandals
SCOTUS, September 2022 / U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court is facing a legitimacy crisis after overturning Roe vs. Wade and increasing ethics scandals involving Justice Clarance Thomas, whose wife Ginni testified before the House Select Committee Investigating the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"The nine justices have no control over money, as Congress does, or force, as the executive branch does. All they have is their black robes and the public trust. A court that does not keep that trust cannot perform its critical role in American government," The New York Times editorial board wrote on Saturday.

The editorial noted the court's falling standing among the public.

"The actual cause of its historic unpopularity is no secret. Over the past several years, the court has been transformed into a judicial arm of the Republican Party," the editorial board wrote. "This project was taking shape more quietly for decades, but it shifted into high gear in 2016, when Justice Antonin Scalia died and Senate Republicans refused to let Barack Obama choose his successor, obliterating the practice of deferring to presidents to fill vacancies on the court. Within four years, the court had a 6-to-3 right-wing supermajority, supercharging the Republican appointees’ efforts to discard the traditions and processes that have allowed the court to appear fair and nonpartisan. As a result, the court’s legitimacy has been squandered in the service of partisan victories."

The court's new term is set to begin on Monday.

"With a few exceptions, the Supreme Court rarely has been at the forefront of making America a more equal place. But we are not consigned to living under the thumb of a reactionary juristocracy," the editorial board wrote. "To the contrary, the meaning of the Constitution is far more than what the court decrees; it is the result of an ongoing conversation between the court and the American people. Those who protested the loss of their rights after the Dobbs decision, and those who showed their determination to protect those rights, as voters did in Kansas in August, are speaking directly to the court. When the justices stop listening, as they have at other moments in history, the people’s voices will eventually become too loud for them to ignore."

Sunday evening, CNN is set to air a new Fareed Zakaria special titled, “Supreme Power: Inside the Highest Court in the Land.”

On Saturday, CNN published a tease of the special adapted from Zakaria's concluding remarks.

"The Supreme Court of the United States has moved in a direction that has weakened its own legitimacy," Zakaria said. "It might be an occasion to begin a national conversation about what reforms could be put in place to make it less partisan, less divisive and more trusted by the vast majority of citizens. After all, that is the only way its rulings will be truly accepted in a diverse democracy of more than 330 million people."