Supreme Court leak shakes confidence in another American pillar

WASHINGTON – Is there a new American motto: In nothing we trust?

By many standards, most people in the US lack much confidence in large institutions, and have for years. Congress? Two big thumbs down. The presidency? erh Americans are also suspicious of big business, labor unions, public schools, and organized religion. In fact, they have miserable views about the workings of democracy itself.

The Supreme Court was an exception. The one branch of government, independent of public opinion, traditionally enjoys a higher public standing than branches elected by the people. Its superior reputation, cultivated with exquisite care, once served it well.

Now judges face a reckoning over the brazen leak of an early draft opinion nullifying constitutional abortion rights, an episode that has deepened suspicions that the Supreme Court, despite its propriety, is populated by robed politicians.


Republican congressmen propose a sinister left-wing conspiracy to derail the outcome of the final decision. Liberals accuse the right-wing machinations of including the judges in their preliminary voting. Despite all of this speculation, neither side knows who leaked the draft to Politico and why.

What is clear is that the affair surrounding the court has burst a bubble of deference.

“My confidence in the court has been shaken,” said Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, one of the few pro-abortion Republican senators, in alarm. Vice President Kamala Harris accused the judges of making a “direct attack on liberty” if they vote as they signaled. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., accused Trump-nominated judges of lying to Congress about their abortion views in their hearings.


Elected officials don’t usually talk about judges like that. But now, it seems, the lawyers are fair game, just another contingent of rulers in Washington’s viper pit.

In contrast, Democrat Al Gore, after fighting a bitter legal battle to settle the impossibly close 2000 election, withheld complaints about the court’s political contamination as it raised hopes for a decision that would hurt Republican George W. made Bush president, destroyed it.

Gore didn’t hesitate to “accept the finality of this result,” as much as he said he disagreed. The deference bubble was evident. But this decision was seen as a modern starting point for the erosion of trust in the court.

In the years since, Democrats have gutted the filibuster on a front to help them fill the lower federal courts with as many judges as possible, knowing they are setting a precedent that may bite them in the future.


Then Republicans did the same for the Supreme Court nominees in the legal equivalent of nuclear escalation.

And there was Donald Trump. During his presidency, Trump specialized in what is familiar in the political class, which is saying the quiet part out loud. This included his view of the judiciary as a political beast, made up of either Democratic or Republican judges.

For the judges, who have long cloaked themselves in the notion that politics ends as soon as they step onto the bench, it was a step too far when Trump accused “Obama judges” of standing in his way and judges, who did not please him, otherwise disparaged .

“We don’t have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Chief Justice John Roberts said in an unusual statement, rebuking Trump’s remarks by those who appear before them.


Still, people in the United States have recently become suspicious of judicial independence, with a strong majority believing that judges should keep their political views out of their decisions, but less than one in five respondents believe they are excellent or do good work .

So controversial the decision Roe v. Wade, who affirmed abortion rights in 1973 and in the years since, it wasn’t a decision driven by partisanship. The vote was 7-2, with five of the justices being nominated by Republican presidents in the majority.

Now Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a conservative-majority liberal on the court, is warning that reversing abortion laws in 50 years would destroy the notion that the American judiciary is blind to partisanship or partisanship.

“Will this institution survive the stench created by the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are merely political acts?” she asked in December in a Mississippi abortion case. She said she didn’t think it would survive.



Except when a monumental decision like this abortion issue comes out, or when Congress is reviewing nominees in its performative hearings, the Supreme Court operates largely in secret. But in New York City, the leak has Sequoia Snyder considering the dish. Is it just another institution that cannot be trusted?

“If you think about it, the power isn’t in the hands of the people,” said Snyder, 22. “We’re not voting on that. The electoral college…the popular vote is ignored. The police are not very regulated, they can do whatever they want with impunity.

“Like every facet of our society that you go to, we don’t really have the power or a voice. So I just think it’s crazy that like everything in the country, nine people have the last word and can never lose their job.. It just strikes me as weird.”

In Charleston, in front of West Virginia’s only abortion clinic, Dennis Westover, a 72-year-old retired electrical engineer, sat on a lawn chair with an anti-abortion sign. He also sees strange machinations from the court.


“One side or the other did it for a political motive, to stir up some kind of stench,” he said of the leak. “We humans do what we do for what we think is a good reason. … What was that? Reason? It couldn’t be a good one because you leaked privileged information from the Supreme Court.”


In a poll last month by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, just 18% of American adults said they have “very much” trust in the Supreme Court. About 27% have little faith in them.

The High Court has historically received better ratings than the other branches and this continues to be the case. In the most recent poll, only 4% have high levels of trust in Congress; 51% hardly have any. And 36% have little faith in the executive branch.

However, the reputation of the court has deteriorated in recent years. The 2021 General Social Survey found that trust in the Supreme Court was among its lowest points in the last half century.


In September, a Gallup poll found that 54% of respondents said they had at least a “fair level” of trust in the court, up from 67% in 2020. That trust has fallen below 60% just once more in five decades.

The government’s poor ratings are almost universally coupled with gloomy views of US democracy and a disenchantment with the pillars of society.

Gallup has tracked public opinion in 14 core institutions across the spectrum — including organized labor, the church, the media, the medical community — and found that trust in them is waning, with the proportion expressing high trust never, on average over 36% increases over 15 years. Only the military and small businesses get an overwhelming vote of confidence.

All is overshadowed by the feeling that the Republic’s foundations are in trouble. In January, 53% in an AP-NORC poll said democracy was not working well in the US; only 8% thought it was very or very good.


This state of affairs emanated from an election in 2020 in which Trump fought bitterly and in vain to reverse Democrat Joe Biden’s clear victory in the White House. Trump’s false claims of a rigged election have resonated across the country as the two parties fall out over state election laws in response.

In his quest to stay in power, however, Trump also came up against the limits of political influence in the judiciary, as he and his campaign brought a series of far-fetched legal challenges into courtrooms, only to have them systematically fail.

“Trump judges” didn’t save him.


Associated Press writer Leah Willingham of Charleston, West Virginia contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission. Supreme Court leak shakes confidence in another American pillar

Justin Scacco

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