The Roberts Court Is a Threat to U.S. Democracy


CLC Releases New Analysis Highlighting the Roberts Court’s Inconsistent Application of the Law in Democracy Cases

In a new analysis released today, The Supreme Court's Role in Undermining American Democracy, Campaign Legal Center discusses how the Roberts Court's record in cases affecting American democracy is consistently anti-democratic, reversing decades of work by prior Courts that sought to perfect and protect our democracy. The report also discusses how the justices, in order to consistently reach anti-democratic results, have selectively and inconsistently applied core judicial and interpretive principles like judicial restraint and deference, devotion to text and respect for precedent.

It is difficult to pinpoint any principled and legitimate through-line in these decisions, the report states.

“The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has hit rock bottom,” said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center, who has argued 21 cases before the Court. “The Court’s track record on democracy is particularly woeful and concerning, given that a strong democracy is essential to a functioning America. The Roberts Court repeatedly tells voters that they can turn to the political process for relief from rulings that they may disagree with, but then in its rulings, increasingly makes it more difficult for voters — particularly voters of color — to participate in that process.”

The Court has always played a prominent role in democracy. The President’s Commission on the Court acknowledged the Court’s role in democracy and its perceived legitimacy as key factors in the recent debates surrounding court reform. In recent public statements, the justices themselves realize they are facing a legitimacy problem.

Only 25% of Americans have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the failure of any consistent legal rationale rightfully draws into question the Roberts Court’s legitimacy.

The report asks, “If the Roberts’ Court is not guided by some coherent judicial philosophy, are the justices simply aligning with the political party of the president who appointed them? Or is it that members of the current majority are averse to a participatory democracy in which every eligible citizen votes?"

The report concludes that the only potential remedy is a strong push back from Congress – the institution that the Framers intended to "check and balance” an aggressive and abusive Supreme Court.

At Campaign Legal Center, we are advancing democracy through law. Learn more about our work.