During the recent coverage on the health care decision, I had repeated occasion to disagree with co-commentators who heralded the Roberts decision as a triumph for the Court in regaining credibility and getting beyond ideological divisions. That seems curious to me since the vote was still 5-4 and was fractured into multiple opinions. The Roberts opinion in my view was also fundamentally in conflict with itself and re-wrote the federal law in a new image. It appears that the opinion did not alter the opinion of the public, either. If anything the public’s view of the Court has worsened after the decision.
A new Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday that shows the favorability ratings for the Court is unchanged at just 51 percent but the unfavorable view has risen to 37 percent — an 8-point increase from April.
Polls obviously should not influence the Court. However, my interest is not with the continuing discontent with the Court but the failure of Congress to consider basic reforms of the institution. These reforms include my earlier proposal to expand the Court. For prior columns on my proposal, click here, here and here and here.
The poll also shows that, if Roberts did intend his switch in the case to improve the standing of the Court, it did not work. I still hope that this widely held view is wrong and that Roberts ethically voted the way that he felt dictated by the law. I remain amazed at legal experts who are applauding Roberts on the assumption that he voted in the best interests of the Court as opposed to his personal views by switching sides. That does not take away from the view that Roberts was wrong in his assumptions — including those expressly rejected by the Obama Administration after claiming victory.
The public is right to hold the Court in disrepute given the conduct of individual justices and the hold of so few jurists on critical political and social issues for the nation. This is, in my view, a deeply flawed institution that needs reform. The relevance of the poll is only that there appears to be a sizable number of citizens who agree that the Court is functioning as they would wish for our system.
Source: National Journal