Justice Samuel Alito says criticism of the Supreme Court goes too far.
“It goes without saying that everyone is free to disagree with our decisions and criticize our reasoning as they see fit,” Alito, who drafted the decision that reversed Roe v. Wade last term said The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. “But to say or imply that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or to question our integrity crosses an important line,” he said.
It is rare for a justice to issue such a statement when asked to comment on an ongoing controversy, but it continues a year in which justices have spoken openly about the public stature of the court since overturning Roe and issuing other controversial opinions to early this year.
Justice Elena Kagan has spoken out in several appearances about the court’s legitimacy, and Chief Justice John Roberts appeared to dismiss her comments without mentioning her by name during a chat earlier this month.
In a series of appearances, Kagan, without directly addressing the most successful cases of the last term, spoke about how the courts can damage his legitimacy.
“I think judges create legitimacy problems for themselves, undermine their legitimacy, when they don’t act as much as the courts and when they don’t do things that are recognizably legal,” he said in New York earlier this month.
“And when instead they drift into places where it seems like they are an extension of the political process or where they impose their own personal preferences,” he added.
Kagan noted that he was speaking in general terms and not pointing to any one decision or series of decisions. But he reiterated that justices generally must abide by precedent, echoing sentiments expressed by liberal justices in a fierce joint dissent after the court overturned Roe last term, a landmark opinion that had been on the books for years. almost 50 years.
Roberts had a different view of the court’s legitimacy.
In a speech in Colorado, he said that while all of the court’s opinions are open to criticism, he noted that “just because people don’t agree with the opinions is no reason to question the court’s legitimacy.” .
Roberts said it is the court’s job to interpret the Constitution, a task that should not be left to political powers or driven by public opinion.
Alito’s comments to the Journal came ahead of Wednesday’s closed-door conference session among the nine justices as they prepare for the new term to officially begin Monday.
The justices will also meet Friday morning, along with President Joe Biden, for the inauguration of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.