News & Politics

Sotomayor: Seeing SCOTUS as Politically Divided Hurts Its Legitimacy

FILE - This June 2, 2009 file photo shows Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on Capitol Hill in Washington. The top Republican on the Senate committee that will consider Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination says a Puerto Rican civil rights group's papers could shed light on her judicial approach, particularly her view of racial preferences in hiring. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor told a conference of Princeton graduates on Friday that if the public sees the Supreme Court as partisan, it loses its legitimacy.

Sotomayor was joined by fellow Justice Elena Kagan, the first female dean of the Harvard Law School.

USA Today:

We don’t have an army, we don’t have any money, the only way we get people to do what we say that they should do is because people respect us and respect our fairness,” Kagan said, reports. “I think especially in this time when the rest of the political environment is so divided, every single one of us has an obligation to think about what it is that provides the court with its legitimacy.”

“It’s an incredibly important thing for the court to guard, is this reputation of being fair, of being impartial, of being neutral, and not being simply an extension of the terribly polarized political process and environment that we live in.”

It’s important to remember that the Supreme Court isn’t partisan only when liberals are in the majority.

Sotomayor, a 1976 Princeton grad, said “politicalization of the court” comes from politicians discussing how to interpret the Constitution.

She said the Founding Fathers didn’t always agree and wrote the Constitution “so people can decide.”

“These discussions have led to outcomes that people can predict,” she said. “Politicians have now superimposed that style on the Court. That has hurt the Court and may continue to.”

This is a bad thing, right? It’s why we need more liberal justices on the court. Liberals only interpret the law based on precedent and the Constitution. They don’t favor any particular political party or ideology.

If this is true, why did liberals fight so hard to destroy Brett Kavanaugh? Is he going to be any more partisan and besotted with ideology than liberal justices?

Brett Kavanaugh was attacked and smeared because his judicial philosophy is grounded in a conservative intellectual legal tradition. This is unacceptable to those whose philosophy is grounded in a liberal intellectual legal tradition. To them, the court must be “balanced”; it should be compassionate toward “the little guy”; “it should create “rights” even if those rights are not implied or appear anywhere in the Constitution. Conservatives don’t do that and this makes them “partisan.”

Pretending that the Supreme Court is anything but a partisan, ideological extension of U.S. politics, as closely divided as is the country, is fantasy.