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Media skewer Supreme Court ‘legitimacy’ as new term gets underway

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The legacy media has pulled out the pitchforks as the justices of the Supreme Court return for a new term, already painting a grim picture of the potential impact the court’s rulings will have on the country. 

“Supreme Court, dogged by questions of legitimacy, is ready to resume,” a headline from The Washington Post read on Thursday.

“The court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority quickly moved its jurisprudence sharply to the right, and there is no reason to believe the direction or pace is likely to change. This version of the court seems steadfast on allowing more restrictions on abortion, fewer on guns, shifting a previously strict line separating church and state, and reining in government agencies. If it is the conservative legal establishment’s dream, it has come at a cost,” Washington Post’s Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes fretted before citing polls showing the court’s record-low approval rating. 

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Supreme Court of the United States.

Supreme Court of the United States.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

The next day, Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus decried the “cataclysmic Supreme Court term” that resulted earlier this year in the overturning of Roe v. Wade, writing, “Nothing in the behavior of the court’s emboldened majority suggests any inclination to pull back on the throttle.”

“As October Term 2022 gets underway, I search in vain for signs of this heedlessness abating. Seeing few, I worry, for the court and for the country whose future it will shape,” Marcus told readers Friday. 

On Saturday, the editorial board of The New York Times suggested the Supreme Court “cannot perform its critical role in American government” since the American people no longer trust it as an institution. 

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The Times wrote, the Supreme Court has “transformed into a judicial arm of the Republican Party,” telling readers, “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.”

“There is no clear solution to this crisis,” the Times editorial board complained. “Legal scholars have put forward many proposals for structural reform — expanding the number of justices, imposing term limits or stripping the court of jurisdiction over certain types of cases — but none are a perfect remedy to the court’s politicization.”

Members of the Supreme Court (L-R) Associate Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh pose in the Justices Conference Room prior to the formal investiture ceremony of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson September 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Members of the Supreme Court (L-R) Associate Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh pose in the Justices Conference Room prior to the formal investiture ceremony of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson September 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)

ABC News correspondent Terry Moran cited “legal scholars who are saying” that the Supreme Court may “push the law and the country to the right” in the new term during Monday’s broadcast of “World News Tonight.” 

MSNBC legal analyst Barbara McQuade sounded the alarm about the current 6-3 conservative majority’s willingness to overturn precedent, saying that the outcomes of future cases are “worrisome” since the Supreme Court has “shown an unwillingness to adhere to precedent.” 

“Deadline: White House” host Nicolle Wallace declared Monday that the Supreme Court is at a “crisis point” based on recent polls. Her guest, civil rights advocate and former MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley, said the court was “gerrymandered by Donald Trump.”

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CNN host Fareed Zakaria similarly warned the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is “in danger.” 

“The Supreme Court cannot enforce any of its own rulings. It relies on the other branches and the public to accept them. That is why the legitimacy of the Court is so important. And that is why actions that make the Court seem more partisan, more radical, more out of tune with the country, are so dangerous,” Zakaria wrote Saturday. 

Zakaria insisted the “most egregious aspect of the American judicial system” is the concept of “life tenure,” writing, “Judges can wield their power longer than most dictators; some stay on the court for decades. Clarence Thomas, for example, has been on the Supreme Court for almost 31 years, and he is now 74 years old.”

President Biden listens as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, April 8, 2022, celebrating the confirmation of Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the Supreme Court. 

President Biden listens as Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks during an event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Friday, April 8, 2022, celebrating the confirmation of Jackson as the first Black woman to reach the Supreme Court. 
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

USA Today contributor Richard Wolf called it “curious” that the conservative justices “nearly always find a legal basis to support decisions that align with conservative ideology.” 

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Wolf argued the court “should exercise a little humility” by declining to hear cases “that advance their ideology” 

“Just a bit of judicial humility would go a long way toward restoring faith in the nation’s high court – before it loses its legitimacy,” Wolf wrote Monday. 

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