Experts Call Out the Left’s Scheme to Delegitimize the Courts

May 19, 2023
The Left Against the Court | First Liberty Institute

by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read

First Liberty President and CEO Kelly Shackelford and former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal this week discussing growing calls for radical court “reform.” They explain how the political Left is putting in motion a grand scheme to delegitimize the U.S. Supreme Court:

“Liberals are trying to subvert the legitimacy of the Supreme Court because it contains a majority of justices committed to the Constitution and the rule of law. Suddenly, instead of repeatedly approving the left’s agenda, the federal judiciary has become one of its greatest impediments. Believing they can no longer win at the Court, progressives now want to change the rules of the game.”

Court packing and court “reform” have resurfaced in recent weeks largely because of a blatant attempt to manufacture an “ethics” scandal around individual justices. Some of the most extreme groups in the country, as well as many political leaders, are directing their ire against conservative justices faithful to the Constitution, those whom they see as a roadblocks to advancing a radical agenda. Shackelford and Meese expose the double standard behind recent attacks:

“The left’s latest offensive has been to undermine the Court’s credibility by charging Republican-appointed justices with alleged disclosure failures while ignoring similar omissions by Democrat-appointed justices…Liberal elites have kept up a steady stream of accusations of partisanship and bias against any judge who issues a decision out of step with progressive values. Baseless accusations of ethics violations usually follow. As the adage says, ‘a lie repeated often enough will eventually be believed.’

Michael Mukasey, who served as U.S. Attorney General and federal judge, agrees. He says it’s “impossible to escape the conclusion that the public is being asked to hallucinate misconduct so as to undermine the authority of justices who issue rulings with which the critics disagree and thus to undermine the authority of the rulings themselves.”

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement—who’s argued more than 100 Supreme Court cases, including our Coach Kennedy case—also warns that attacks on the judiciary are dangerous. “It would be dangerous enough if it was limited to the discussion of abstract ideas but it has become personalized to judges and justices,” Clement said recently. “In my view that is an incredibly dangerous game to be playing because if you study the Supreme Court through history, its legitimacy has to be built up over time. And it’s been a careful effort that has literally taken centuries.”

Dan McLaughlin at National Review calls these alleged “ethical” concerns a smokescreen. He says the “motivation for the current multipronged offensive is transparently ideological: Liberals and progressives lost control of the Court, and they are now willing to trash it if the alternative is for it to remain outside their control.”

Shackelford and Meese make clear that this fabricated “ethics” scandal is only one tactic in a multipronged assault on the judiciary that’s been taking place for years. They point to prior efforts to get rid of the Senate’s filibuster, President Biden’s overwhelmingly liberal Supreme Court “reform” commission, court-packing legislation, unlawful protests outside justices’ homes, pressuring and intimidating justices to retire, as well as openly defying and ignoring court rulings.

Transparently Ideological: Court Packing Bill Reintroduced in Congress

On cue, several Democratic lawmakers reintroduced a bill earlier this week to pack the Supreme Court. Their proposal would create an additional four seats. This bill only adds more evidence that court “reform” is all about ideology and the Left getting around decisions it doesn’t like.

Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts said: “Each scandal uncovered, each norm broken, each precedent-shattering ruling delivered is a reminder that we must restore justice and balance to the rogue, radical Supreme Court. It is time we expand the Court.”

Additionally, look at the latest group to call for radical court “reform.” Planned Parenthood recently released a statement saying it supports expanding the number of members on the Supreme Court and putting term limits in place for justices. The organization also voiced support for “ethics and transparency requirements” as well as adding “seats for additional judges on lower courts.”

“The fight to strengthen our democracy and bolster our institutions has always been intertwined with the fight for reproductive freedom,” according to President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson. “The courts have been used as a vehicle to advance a dangerous agenda against abortion rights, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and so much more. Planned Parenthood refuses to accept that our courts can only exist as they do now.”

Planned Parenthood’s announcement comes just a few weeks after 30+ groups and several politicians kicked off a nationwide effort saying “structural changes” are needed at the Supreme Court. The deceptively named “Just Majority” campaign says “it’s time for a national conversation about adding justices so the Court can once again advance justice and equality. If that means expanding the Supreme Court, so be it.”

Joining Planned Parenthood in this effort are some of most extreme activist organizations in America, including the American Humanist Association, Demand Justice, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and NARAL. These groups aren’t just trying to destroy the priceless heritage of the Supreme Court. It’s no secret many of them are also hostile to religious freedom and have gone to court to fight against the free exercise of religion in recent years.

As First Liberty and many other respected legal experts have explained, this is nothing more than a brazen power grab. It’s about one side disliking how the Supreme Court rules and seeking to rig the judiciary in their favor.

Court packing and other constitutionally suspect “reforms” would be catastrophic. They would be the gateway to tyranny. They would end the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court. They would destroy our Constitution’s founding principle of separation of powers, erode all public confidence in future court rulings and eradicate our cherished rights and freedoms, including religious liberty.

America’s system of justice should be revered and respected. Fighting for religious liberty and our constitutional rights means nothing if we allow our highest court to be packed and hijacked by liberal power-hungry zealots.

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