WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling is unpopular with most Americans — but does it matter?
The relationship between the public and the judiciary has been studied and debated by legal and political scholars. Short answer: it’s complicated. There is evidence that the public has an indirect role in the judiciary, but this may change.
In the final opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the court “cannot allow our decisions to be influenced by any outside influence such as concerns about public reaction to our work.”
Polls after Rai’s leaked draft show the Supreme Court’s approval – which was already aggrieved – fell even further, driven by those who supported keeping the cry.
Court and public opinion have clashed at times, but they have entered a “symbiotic relationship” over the past 60 years, suggests Barry Friedman in his 2009 book “The Will of the People”. The court does not deviate too far from popular opinion.
How this happens and whether it remains true is hard to know for sure. “We don’t have a viewfinder to show us what the judges are doing,” said Maya Sen, political scientist and professor at Harvard Kennedy School. “It’s a complicated chicken-and-egg situation where we can try to separate these forces, but that’s very difficult to do.”
Is public opinion clear on abortion?
Public opinion on abortion is subtle, but voting shows widespread support for abortion and abortion rights. Seventy percent of US adults said in a May Associated Press-NORC poll that the Supreme Court should leave Roe as it is, not overturn it.
Roe is one of “a handful of cases” that people recognize, Sen said, and is “recognized as a significant Supreme Court precedent.”
Only 8% in a May poll said abortion should be illegal in all cases, but many Americans support some restrictions. An Associated Press-NORC survey last year showed that a majority of adults say second- and third-trimester abortions should be illegal in all or most cases, and opinion was closely divided on whether a pregnant woman should have sex for any reason. Must be able to obtain a legal abortion.
“I think many Americans believe that there should be some sort of sliding scale where the rights are protected and then if the pregnancy continues, the interests of the potential life become more important,” Sen said. allowed for this. Fine thinking
Is public opinion directly involved in the decision-making of the court?
Researchers have found – and some judges themselves have acknowledged – that court decisions and public opinion are often aligned, but some experts say this is probably not a direct link.
What is most important in decision-making is the set of political and judicial philosophies that give them precedence over the outcomes of cases, said Joseph Ura, a professor of political science at Texas A&M University. “Everything else is marginal around him.”
Justices themselves experience what Americans do every day, which makes it difficult to assess causality.
“It’s really hard to understand: was it public opinion that is driving these decisions or is it just the preferences of the judges and they are aware of the same things most of us are exposed to?” Elizabeth Lane, assistant professor of political science at Louisiana State University.
Does Public Opinion Indirectly Influence the Court?
Scholars point to judicial appointments and court legitimacy as possible ways that the public has an indirect influence on the court.
For one, voters elect a president, who nominates judges, and senators, who confirm them.
Ura said, “In the long run, recognizing that there is an appropriate rotation of judges who step down for any reason that aligns with the historical choice of the party in power, the court should maintain its alignment with public opinion.” can keep.”
Experts say that recently it has been underestimated. Incidentally and by political maneuvering, a large number of sitting judges—six of them—were appointed by Republican presidents.
In their disagreement, the court’s liberal justices wrote: “The court today reverses course for one reason and one reason only: because the composition of this court has changed.”
Judges may also consider how a decision will be received by the public, although the new abortion ruling makes it clear that some in court do not believe it to be an important consideration.
Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll and professor of law and public policy, said that while the court can issue its decision, it has to rely on other actors – the public, politicians and even lower courts. .
“I suspect that the judges get up every morning and check the voting to see if people agree, but in the long term, the level of public support the court needs as a mechanism to implement its decisions. require,” Franklin said.
The support the court needs can change. Ura said the reaction from the public or elected officials is “less currency” as political polarization deepens. A controversial or unpopular decision does not necessarily increase the displeasure of a bipartisan coalition.
Does it matter that public confidence in the court is low?
The court has historically enjoyed consistently positive views among the public. But voting showed confidence and court approval began to dwindle last year, and has gotten worse since the leaked draft. What difference does it make if the public’s confidence in the court is low?
“The idea of a court’s legitimacy was a way it could rule against the opinion of the majority,” Franklin said.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently emphasized the need for public trust in the court system. In 2018 Justice Elena Kagan explained why: “You know we don’t have an army. We don’t have any money. We can inspire people to do what we think they should do because people respect us.”
Michael Salamon, a professor of political science at Washington State University, explained that “specific support” for the court — which is measured in polls — can easily fluctuate with reactions to court decisions. But “diffuse support” – a belief in the institution’s role in a democracy – has historically been resilient. It remains to be seen whether the decision to reverse Roe will damage that broad support.
“Just based on the amount of rhetoric and the high-profile nature of many of these decisions,” he said, “I’m wondering if we’ve probably reached our limit on that resilience.”