Almost half of the Supreme Court spent the summer and early fall on a national gaslighting tour. Judges Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, and Stephen Breyer all gave high-profile speeches or interviews praising the impartiality of the court. They also used their harassed pulpits to attack the media, accusing them of misleading the public about the strong political divisions in the court.
A simple look at their actions, however, belies the judges’ disinformation offensive. The Supreme Court ended its last term in June with a deluge of 6 to 3 decisions – including the withdrawal of voting rights and labor rights – that fell right along the party lines. The six Conservative judges then spent the summer when the court was due to be out of session using the Shadow Act to blow holes in the Biden administration’s agenda – from the eviction moratorium to Biden’s attempt to “stay in Mexico.” ” to end. Then they ended their general assault on minority and women’s rights by discarding 50 years of abortion precedent in order to put Texan’s anti-abortion bounty hunting program into effect.
Perhaps the judges don’t think they’re acting like partisan hackers, just as a shark thinks there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a snack. But at some point there is enough blood in the water to make the predator’s motivation irrelevant.
Still, I strongly suspect that the judges are lying about their intentions anyway. Supreme Court justices who intend to publish a series of unpopular, partisan decisions – and that is exactly what the Conservatives want to do this term – have every motivation to lie and say they are doing something else. Remember, the Supreme Court has no army and no money. Your decisions only matter because we all agree to respect them. Conservatives like Thomas, Alito and Barrett, who want to take away rights, all have an interest in lying about what they are doing and why.
But Justice Breyer is an interesting case because he’s not a member of the conservative cabal on the court. He’s not part of the winning majority, which means he shows up for work every day just to see the issues, parties, and legal arguments he supports get shredded. But just last month he published a new book The authority of the court and the danger of politicsin which he argues that the court is inherently apolitical, driven by legal philosophy as opposed to political agendas. He claims that the judges are not just “robed politicians” and warns that attempts to reform the court (for example, through court enlargements) are dangerous “temptations that are better resisted”. He suggests they could threaten the rule of law.