The Supreme Court Does Not Want This Either



The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Saturday, July 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

It seems like everyone is mad at the Supreme Court. With the new term beginning last week and a slew of high-profile cases on gun rights, abortion, and religious freedom soon to be decided, many have begun their anticipatory, don’t-you-dare-do-it mumbling. Every major publication (besides Voices) is getting shots in with titles like “The Supreme Court v. Reality,” “Mitch McConnell’s Supreme Court,” and “Crusaders on the Supreme Court,” but the response from justices has been quiet and measured.

The unsavory events which led to the bench’s current makeup—McConnell blocking Garland, the Kavanaugh hearings, and Republicans entirely disregarding past words and actions to replace RBG—have created understandable frustration in many Americans. However, their discontent is poorly directed. Blaming the Supreme Court for reluctantly setting policy where the other two branches have allowed a grey area is simplistic and counterproductive. Instead, citizens should be more concerned with the lack of legislative action which forces the Supreme Court to make these rulings.

For those unfamiliar, the Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial branch of federal government. Justices are effectively the referees of the US government—Congress makes laws, the President enforces them, and the Supreme Court ensures they’re constitutional. Relative to the other two, the judicial branch’s role is rather tame. SCOTUS’s lack of real influence famously led Alexander Hamilton to call it “the least dangerous branch of government.”

So what’s the issue with the justices, well, adjudicating?

The center of criticism against the Supreme Court is that it pretends to be non-partisan when, in reality, its common run-ins with politically charged issues combined with a complete lack of accountability makes the court a most potent avenue of changing policy. 

Firstly, “the Court always seems to be caught up in politically charged issues.” Of course they are. Although it gets to decide which cases it would like to hear, the issues that get that far in appeals are often handpicked by political organizations for their facts or require judgment to clarify how people should behave. In either case, the Supreme Court is obligated, not of their own volition, to take them on. Some might be upset that the Supreme Court has the responsibilities it does, but there needs to be an entity to make these decisions. The nine justices choose to carry that burden.

Secondly, “there is no accountability in the Supreme Court.” The reason the Courts don’t answer to politicians is that such a system would be inherently political. If justices had to rule certain ways to remain on the bench, they would lose their objectivity. What certain columnists call accountability would bring about the very politicization which they fear monger about. Impeachment remains an option for justices who commit a crime, but political decisions shouldn’t be able to otherwise influence the court.

Finally, “the court makes policy.” Sometimes, it’s true that the court makes a ruling on constitutionality which makes real changes to how laws are enforced. Usually, though, they only have to rule because other entities failed. For example, regardless of how America feels, it seems highly likely that the Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned this session. Further, regardless of how America feels, it seems objectionable that such a decision could be made… regardless of how America feels. However, that’s not the Court’s fault. People overlook that there is a bill on the Senate floor right now which would make irrelevant any Supreme Court ruling. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Elected officials are supposed to make policy. When they fail to, as they have with this bill, the Supreme Court has to step in and clarify what Congress refuses to. This is not a failing of the judicial branch. It is a failure of the legislative branch.

There will be more commentary on the Court in the coming months, but the Supreme Court will continue to do what they have always done: try their best to clean up others’ messes. Frankly, maybe they deserve more credit for even trying.