With the Supreme Court in the spotlight, its declining approval ratings are getting vigorous analysis. Now a retired federal judge weighs in with a Huffington Post commentary headlined, “The Supreme Court is not American Idol.”
Retired U.S. Judge H. Lee Sarokin, who served on the district and appeals benches, suggests that the high court’s 44 percent approval rating in a national poll (see Gavel Grab) may result from attacks hurled at the court by some critics.
“I have been warning and predicting for years that the Republican/conservative’s relentless repetition about ‘activist, unelected, unaccountable judges thwarting the will of the majority, legislating from the bench and advancing their own agenda’ would eventually erode the public’s confidence in and respect for the judiciary,” Judge Sarokin writes.
The 44 percent approval rating “confirms that prediction,” he says. While some court opinions may have been a factor, “I suspect that most likely what has been said about judges rather than what the judges have actually said has caused this loss of faith.”
He goes on to raise a broader concern. “To me the greatest danger is the concept that somehow judicial decisions should and must be popular,” he writes. Following the law and the Constitution doesn’t always result in a popular decision. “Fortunately, court decisions do not depend upon a vote of the people as on American Idol.” He concludes:
“Criticism of the judiciary is appropriate and necessary, but those who choose to demean and attribute sordid motives to it solely because of their disagreement erode that respect without which the judiciary cannot function.”