Democracy in Disrepair? Examining the Continued Legitimacy of the Supreme Court

March 15, 2023
A symposium presented by Touro Law Center's Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity

In recent months, tensions have erupted in the face of a newly muscular Supreme Court that has boldly exercised its authority, often in contradiction to popular preferences in various instances. As a result, the legitimacy of the Court is under more intense scrutiny than it has faced in years. Multiple factors have brought us to this juncture. A hyper-partisan appointments process has diminished popular perception of the Justices’ neutrality. The increased willingness of some Justices to reveal their political allegiances has further eroded public confidence in the objectivity of their rulings. The recent trend of using the shadow docket to resolve substantial, highly contested matters has undermined faith in the transparency and thoroughness of their decision-making practices. And of course, many are deeply unsettled by the fact that a conservative supermajority has flexed its authority to reorder decades of settled precedent and discard norms of stability in the name of achieving long-held ideological goals. Popular support for the Supreme Court has now plummeted and is trending at historical lows, and respect for the institution – which carries with it neither the power of the sword nor the power of the purse – is eroding every day. Given these and other concerns, what steps should or even can be taken to minimize the influence of politics on federal courts, especially the Supreme Court? The symposium will explore this issue, as well as others related to the continued democratic legitimacy of the Supreme Court.

Conference Program

Introductory Remarks: Elena Langan, Touro Law Dean and Professor of Law

10:00-11:15 am - What Does "Legitimacy" Mean for the Supreme Court and is its Institutional Integrity Under Threat?

Rodger D. Citron, Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship & Professor of Law, Touro University Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
Josh Kastenberg, Professor of Law, University of New Mexico School of Law
Laura Moyer, Associate Professor of Law and Director of Graduate Studies, University of Louisville
Regina Ramsey Esq., Vice Chancellor for Institutional Accountability and Accreditation, Southern University Law Center

11:30-12:45 pm - Popular Perception of the Supreme Court: What Role Does and/or Should it Play in Judicial Decisionmaking?

Tal Kastner, Assistant Professor of Law, Touro University Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
Or Bassok, Assistant Professor in Constitutional Law, The University of Nottingham
Tara Leigh Grove, Vinson & Elkins Chair in Law, University of Texas School of Law
Rachel Houston, Assistant Professor of American Judicial Politics, Texas Christian University

1:00-2:15 pm - The Supreme Court as an Institution: Rethinking or Reform? 

Lauren R. Roth, Assistant Professor of Law, Touro University Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
Tiffany C. Graham, Associate Professor of Law, Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, Touro University Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
Reginald Oh, Alan Miles and Betty Willis Ruben Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
William G. Ross, Albert P. Brewer Professor of Law and Ethics, Cumberland Law School