U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan told an audience at Northwestern University in Chicago Wednesday that the high court "shouldn’t be doing things that are popular," but should "uphold values" and "defend the Constitution."
"What I would say is a court does not have any want," the Washington Examiner reported Kagan saying to the live audience Wednesday. "It does not have any rightful authority to do anything else than act like a court. It doesn't have the authority to make political decisions. It doesn't have authority to make policy decisions. Its authority is bounded and ... the court should be constantly aware of that."
Reuters reported that the liberal appointee of Democratic former President Barack Obama in 2010 said a "court is legitimate when it's acting like a court," respecting past precedents instead of making policy decisions.
"When courts become extensions of the political process, when people see them as extensions of the political process, once people see them as trying just to impose personal preferences on a society, irrespective of the law, that's when there's a problem," Reuters reported that she said.
She said that the high court should look at overturning precedent, like it did in June, reversing the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal, only in "highly unusual cases."
"If there's new members of the court, and all of a sudden everything is up for grabs, all of a sudden very fundamental principles of law are being overthrown or are being, you know, replaced, then people have a right to say, 'What's going on there? That doesn't seem very law-like,'" she said.
A Sept. 1 Pew Research Center poll found that confidence in the court dropped 21 points since 2020, from 70% having a favorable view of the court, to just 49% this year, and the percentage of those with an unfavorable view increasing from 29% in 2020 to 48% now.
The biggest drop was among Democrats, falling from a 67% favorable view in 2020 to just 28% now, compared to Republicans who are almost level in seeing the court favorably with a 75% favorable rating in 2020 to 73% now.
Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the court's "legitimate function is interpreting the Constitution and not just giving into public opinion.
"I don't understand the connection between the opinions people disagree with and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court," The Guardian reported Roberts saying at a legal conference in Colorado. "If the court doesn't retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I'm not sure who would take up that mantle. You don't want the political branches telling you what the law is, and you don't want public opinion to be the guide about what the appropriate decision is."
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