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Monday, March 25, 2024

Who Cares If the Supreme Court Justices Like Each Other?

It is practically an article of faith – at least among lawyers – that the Supreme Court “functions better” when the justices get along with one another. But I say, who cares? I explain my reasoning in a new essay in The Hill.

Here is the gist:

The Supreme Court’s friendships are not above the law

The latest episode of performative collegiality featured Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Amy Coney Barrett in a series of joint appearances, where they insisted that their profound disagreements about constitutional law do not affect their daily interactions. 

But why should anyone care about the justices’ interpersonal relationships? When Supreme Court decisions affect millions of lives, sometimes for better and often for worse, what does it matter if they routinely patch it up afterward? 

No parent grieving a child killed in the latest school shooting will be consoled because the justices still enjoy lunch together while effective gun control has been made nearly impossible. No woman forced to endure an ectopic pregnancy can take comfort in the justices’ bonhomie following the demise of Roe v. Wade.

The justices’ unwavering camaraderie also results in deference to each other’s ethical choices, even when a colleague has engaged in misconduct.

The eight other justices have graciously stayed silent while Thomas remains in a case implicating both his wife and his protégé.

No amount of courtesy, affability, relationship building or overall good feeling can justify the Supreme Court’s quiescence in the face of Thomas’s flagrant misconduct.

You can read the entire essay in The Hill.

Posted by Steve Lubet on March 25, 2024 at 12:13 PM | Permalink


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