Is the Supreme Court's legitimacy at stake in its new term?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

The Supreme Court.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images)

The Supreme Court on Monday started a new term that will give the 6-3 conservative supermajority opportunities to leave its mark on more hot-button issues after its landmark decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which protected abortion rights for a half-century. This term, the court will consider cases involving affirmative action, gay rights, voting, and religion. Polls show that public approval of the court has fallen to historic lows, with a record number of Americans complaining the court is too conservative following former President Donald Trump's appointment of justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, who replaced the late liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Those critiques could intensify if, as expected, the high court continues its lurch to the right this term by permitting more restrictions on abortion and fewer on guns, and relaxing the line separating church and state.

In a rare display of discord, the justices themselves this summer plunged into the debate about the court's credibility after a term in which it overturned longstanding precedents. "It just doesn't look like law when, you know, the new judges appointed by a new President come in and just start tossing out the old stuff," liberal Justice Elena Kagan said in a public appearance in Rhode Island. Chief Justice John Roberts defended the high court in a separate appearance in Colorado. "Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court," he said. His fellow conservative Justice Samuel Alito went a step further, saying that implying "the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line." Is the Supreme Court's legitimacy in danger of crumbling in its new term?

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Harold Maass, The Week US

Harold Maass is a contributing editor at The Week. He has been writing for The Week since the 2001 debut of the U.S. print edition and served as editor of when it launched in 2008. Harold started his career as a newspaper reporter in South Florida and Haiti. He has previously worked for a variety of news outlets, including The Miami Herald, ABC News and Fox News, and for several years wrote a daily roundup of financial news for The Week and Yahoo Finance.