The Court’s Legitimacy

Following up on Jonathan’s post below, I’m not terribly worried about warnings from the left that a ruling against the ACA will undermine the Court’s legitimacy.

Who, after all, is going to lead the charge against the Court?  Liberal journalists like Linda Greenhouse and Dahlia Lithwick, whose human capital is invested in covering the Court?  The fraternity of elite liberal  lawyers who served as Supreme Court clerks, for whom undermining the Court’s legitimacy means undermining the value of their own prized credential?  Liberal constitutional law professors, who are as invested as anyone in the Court’s significance?  (It’s hard enough to get people to read one’s latest article on “A Kantian/Weberian Approach to the Fourth Amendment” when the Court is as important as it is now!)  Liberal activist groups and think-tankers, who still treasure the Court’s rulings on abortion, due process rights for terrorism suspects, term limits, and more, and who hope that a future Court will recognize a right to gay marriage?  Liberal Congressmen, when Congress’ popularity rating is well below the Court’s, and who have hardly shown themselves to be constitutional scholars? (Not to mention that journalists like Lithwick are on record suggesting that it’s “weird” for members of Congress to be considering the constitutionality of legislation.  “Isn’t it a court’s job to determine whether or not something is, in fact, constitutional?” wrote Lithwick.)

At most, a ruling against the ACA will have the same effect as Bush v. Gore or Citizens United, or Roe v. Wade and Boumediene for that matter; a fair amount of caterwauling, with the Court as an institution remaining unscathed.

UPDATE: I probably should add that I’m not at all sure the Court should have the level of legitimacy it currently has.  I think the other branches of government were meant to, and probably should, play a significantly larger role in constitutional decisionmaking than they currently do.  But as a positive matter, I don’t see the ACA litigation as a threat to that legitimacy.

FURTHER UPDATE: Oh, and of course, why undermine the Court’s legitimacy when your side is one appointment away from taking it over?

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