(NewsNation) — Those of you, particularly on the left, who say the Supreme Court has become irredeemably conservative, even illegitimate, I’m talking to you. We need to retain our faith in the Supreme Court, and for that matter, all of our courts.
A pair of new decisions provides evidence the court is not blindly partisan. It has definitely moved to the right, pretty far to the right. But while you may not hear much about this in the media, the court didn’t agree to hear the more radical challenges to lower court rulings, letting those rulings stand.
For example, the court this week refused to hear an appeal from a Utah gun rights advocate and another from a prominent gun rights group, both of which challenged the ban on bump stocks, the gun attachments that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly and basically function as machine guns, despite the fact that the ban was implemented by the Trump administration in 2019.
The ban has been criticized by many gun groups, but the justices were evidently unmoved by that argument, and simply declined to hear the case.
Now, however you feel about guns, or however you feel about bump stocks, there’s no question that the court is rejecting the more conservative position on the issue. Right now, it’s important to highlight examples of judicial independence because public confidence in the court is waning.
A new Gallup poll shows trust in the Supreme Court has cratered, falling 20 points over the past two years. For the first time in 50 years of this poll, fewer than half of Americans have either a great deal or even a fair amount of trust in the court. That’s frightening. Because if Americans won’t trust what is perennially been its most reliable federal institution, what will they trust?
Even the justices themselves are sowing some doubt. During a recent speaking engagement at Northwestern University, Justice Elena Kagan said, “When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, when people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on the society, irrespective of law, that’s when there’s a problem. And that’s when there ought to be a problem.”
That’s true. And even if she believes it, I’m not sure it’s productive in trying to maintain public faith in the court, which she’s a part of.
Not surprisingly, the comment drew harsh rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts at a forum last month in Colorado.
“I don’t understand the connection between opinions that people disagree with and the legitimacy of the court. Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court,” he said.
That’s what makes decisions like these two bump stock rulings so important to highlight.
Roberts is right that the outcome of a single case is not sufficient grounds to undermine the entire court. But what can endanger its reputation is blind allegiance to one political side, rather than allegiance to the law.
I disagree with some of the recent rulings from the court, but the refusal to hear the bump stock cases shows that this court is still evaluating issues case by case, issue by issue.
It’s definitely a very different court than it was even six years ago. But undermining the legitimacy of the court isn’t the answer, because that will come back to haunt us all.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not of NewsNation.