Why the Current U.S. Supreme Court Is a Threat to Our Democracy

The front of the U.S. Supreme Court under cloudy skies

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) has released a new analysis discussing how the current Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, otherwise known as the Roberts Court, has a record for being consistently anti-democratic when deciding cases that affect American democracy.

The analysis shows how the Roberts Court has reversed decades of work by prior Courts that sought to perfect and protect our democracy and has highlighted the need for congressional action to check its power.

It is difficult to pinpoint any principled and legitimate through-line in the Roberts Court’s decisions, leaving open the question of whether the justices are simply aligning with the political party of the president who appointed them or whether members of the current majority are averse to a participatory democracy in which every eligible citizen votes.

The justices have selectively and inconsistently applied core judicial and interpretive principles to reach anti-democratic results.

Meanwhile, they have repeatedly told voters that they can turn to the political process for relief from rulings that they may disagree with, but then in their rulings, increasingly make it more difficult for voters – especially voters of color – to participate in the political process.

For example, in Shelby County v. Holder, the Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that required the federal government to review new voting policies in jurisdictions with long histories of discrimination, but it promised that voters would be able to rely on Section 2 of the VRA, which provides a nationwide ban on racial discrimination in voting, to protect their freedom to vote.

But then subsequently, in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court chipped away at Section 2, making it much harder for voters to use the VRA to bring and win challenges.

For decades, the Court has had a prominent role in preserving our democracy. But the Roberts Court’s consistent efforts to thwart democracy without any coherent or persuasive reasoning rightfully draws into question the Court’s legitimacy. Only 25% of Americans express confidence in the Court, a record low.

President Biden’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 have realized that they are facing a legitimacy problem.

The Roberts Court’s track record on democracy is abysmal and continues to threaten the democratic rights that are essential to a functioning America. The only potential remedy is a strong pushback from Congress — the institution that the Framers intended to "check and balance” an aggressive and abusive Supreme Court.   

Read the full analysis

CLC's Analysis on the Anti-Democratic Supreme Court