Is the Supreme Court — which began its new term on Monday — becoming as polarized as the rest of the federal government? It sure looks that way.
With three conservatives appointed by President Donald Trump, the court now has the broadest ideological divide in decades. Chief Justice John Roberts, who has long sought to build consensus and forge 9-0 decisions, now presides over a court with a stark 6-3 split.
The term that ended in June was one of the most consequential and controversial in the court’s history, punctuated by the unprecedented leak of the justice’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned the 49-year precedent of Roe v. Wade.
Will things be calmer this term? Don’t bet on it.
Writes Marcia Coyle of the National Constitution Center: “After an intense blockbuster U.S. Supreme Court term, like the one just ended, the justices often have opted for a low-key term. Not this time.”
On the docket:
- Merrill v. Milligan, which challenges aspects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, which deals with affirmative action in higher education
- Moore v. Harper, dealing with the rights of states in the federal redistricting process
- 303 Creative LLC. v. Elenis, a case dealing with whether business owners can reject clientele for religious or moral reasons
Irv Gornstein of the Supreme Court Institute at Georgetown Law School toldThe New York Times, “On things that matter most, get ready for a lot of 6-3s.”
The new Court term begins with just 47% of Americans telling Gallup pollsters they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the high court — a 50-year low, and a 20 percentage point plummet in just the last two years. A full 58% of Americans disapprove of the Court’s performance. Two years ago, the same number approved.
It wasn’t that long ago that Supreme Court nominees were confirmed with 90 votes or more. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) voted to confirm both Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — as did then-Sen. Joe Biden. But as Court confirmations have become pitched partisan battles, the public increasingly sees the Court becoming politicized, and its reputation has suffered for it.