Supreme Court and Political Nuetrality


The Politico Magazine recent article by Joshua Zeitz argues that “The Supreme Court Has Never Been Apolitical” and provides a historical perspective writing that “many today fear the court is becoming just another partisan institution. But, in the past, justices sought elective office and counseled partisan allies. Some even coveted the White House themselves.

… the idea of an apolitical court is a fairly recent development.For the better part of American history, the U.S. Supreme Court was a much more partisan and political institution than we remember. The justices who sat on its bench were once and future elected officials, advisers to presidents and even presidential aspirants themselves. From John McLean and Salmon P. Chase in the 19th century to William O. Douglas in the 20th, justices often kept a wandering eye on the White House.Abe Fortas had a direct phone line to the president of the United States and even wrote some of his speeches. Justices also accepted outside income and affiliated with third-party interest groups.

For general readers, not political or politicians, the articles provides enougph historical events and acquaintances that makes them believe that Supreme Court was not apolitical. Zeist argues that recent controversy over Virginia Thomas, wife Justice Clearance Thomas, and “highly charged confirmation hearings, Mitch McConnell’s power play to deny former President Barack Obama the opportunity to fill a vacancy in 2016 and his subsequent decision to move a nominee through the confirmation process after millions of voters had cast ballots in 2020, discussions of enlarging the court — all contribute to the mounting conviction that the court is a partisan asset” added fuel to public suspicion of the Court’s neutrality.

You can’t address a problem until you acknowledge it exists. We have pretended over the past 50 years that the Supreme Court is an apolitical institution. It never really was, and it isn’t today.

– Joshua Zeitz from Politico Magazine

Zeist adds:

For the better part of its existence, the Supreme Court was a political institution, populated by men and women who were politicians, political advisers and politically motivated actors. Today, if polls are to be believed, few people — other than a few of the justices currently serving on the bench — seem to believe that the court is a neutral arbiter of the law. Americans from across the political divide regard the court as a political body that wraps ideology in legal garb.

Let’s wait and see if the current Thomases controversy may influence public opinion on Supreme Court as the neutral arbitrator of law.