Thursday, February 18, 2016

Resetting the Post-Scalia Supreme Court

Linda Greenhouse
FEB. 18, 2016, NYT

In the days since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, there has been plenty of talk about the substantial impact his absence will have on the Supreme Court’s docket. I’d like to shift the focus to the Roberts court itself.

Fate has handed the justices a chance to hit reset.

If that seems an uncharitable, even tasteless observation, so be it. I’ve become increasingly concerned, as my recent columns have suggested, that the conservative majority is permitting the court to become an agent of partisan warfare to an extent that threatens real damage to the institution. Justice Scalia’s outsize role on and off the bench contributed to that dangerous development to an outsize degree.

I’m not claiming that he was completely responsible. Given the Supreme Court’s place in American life, there is no way it can avoid getting singed by the polarizing politics of the day. Nor was Justice Scalia solely to blame for the court’s drop in public esteem as demonstrated by a Gallup Poll in September showing that more people disapprove of the Supreme Court (50 percent) than approve of it (45 percent). While this is a notable departure from the historic trend, other governmental bodies have fared far worse (Congress has a 16 percent approval rating), and the court is to some degree caught in the back draft of generalized public mistrust of government.

(More here.)

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