Courts and (Public) Opinion

In a letter in Thursday’s Letters section of The Wall Street Journal, Walter Smith claims to have argu[ed] several cases personally before the Supreme Court (“claims,” because unlike many Letter writers, his signature block makes no mention of his status as a lawyer, past or present), and he expressed considerable dismay over the basis of Court decisions and subsequent Court “legitimacy.”

The court’s majority has made clear that it doesn’t care about public opinion or many of the harmful consequences of its decisions.

I have to wonder how many cases Smith won before the Supreme Court, with such a breathtaking lack of understanding of the Supreme Court’s—of any American court’s—role, an understanding any first year law student gains.

The Court’s role is not to wave to and fro with the winds of public opinion, but to rule on what the Constitution and the statute(s) before the Court say.

Full stop.

That’s why judges and Justices have lifetime appointments—deliberately to insulate them from public opinion, and from politics altogether.

But Smith wasn’t done.

As Abraham Lincoln said: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.”

Indeed. But that was Politician Lincoln, not Judge Lincoln. If Smith doesn’t like the Court’s rulings, his beef is with the political branches of our republican government, the men and women of which wrote the laws the Court must apply.

I suggest he begin his remedial training on the American legal system by writing our Constitution’s Article I, Section 1, 100 times on his blackboard.

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