Justices Stephen Breyer and Amy Coney Barrett of the United States Supreme Court found common ground on Monday, expressing their worry that the nation’s top court is increasingly seen in ideological terms.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, in one of her first public remarks as a justice, Barrett assured an audience in Kentucky on Sunday that “this court is not made of a bunch of partisan hacks.”
In an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, Breyer was questioned about those remarks and stated that he agreed “with I think the approach that she’s taking there.”
“As I previously stated, it takes a few years to learn the ins and outs of the institution. The institution’s more — you’re a judge, therefore you’d best be there for everyone “Breyer, the court’s oldest and most senior liberal stated as much. “You’re a judge whether a Democrat or a Republican-appointed you.”
In her remarks, Barrett seemed to reflect that idea, reminding the audience that “judicial ideologies are not the same as political parties.”
The fact that the event was sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell within an academic facility named after him may have tainted her message. The optics were condemned by a number of progressive legal organizations and independent judicial watchdogs.
“If Justice Barrett wants the Supreme Court to be regarded as nonpartisan, she should avoid being hosted by a facility named for America’s most political person,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of the nonpartisan advocacy organization Fix The Court. “There is benefit in members of the Supreme Court communicating to audiences outside of Washington, but that idea is tainted when used to justify participating at gatherings that resemble political pep rallies.”
Breyer was not questioned about McConnell’s ties and did not respond. His visit was part of a media tour in support of his new book, “The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics.”
The court’s public defense as a neutral institution comes at a difficult time for the justices’ credibility. According to Gallup, the Supreme Court’s popularity rating has dropped below 50% for the first time since 2017 and is down 9 points from a decade high only last year.
By a narrow 5-4 ruling earlier this month, the Supreme Court became engaged in a dramatic and controversial dispute over abortion in Texas, refusing to halt extraordinary legislation that virtually prohibits the practice across the state.
Barrett sided with the majority, while Breyer voted against it.
“Many people will strongly disagree with many of the opinions or dissents that you write,” he added, “but you must believe inwardly that this is not a political organization, that this is an institution that is there for every American.”