Trust In the Supreme Court Plummets After Overturning Roe v. Wade

This article was originally published by Vanity Fair.

Approval of the Supreme Court sank to a new low, just 100 days after Roe v. Wade was overturned, showcasing a diminishing trust in the nation’s highest court before it begins a new term.

According to a new Gallup poll, 47% of Americans said they have at least a “fair amount” of trust in the judicial branch, plummeting 20 percentage points from two years ago. Meanwhile, 58% of Americans disapprove of the way SCOTUS is handling its job—a record-high disapproval rating. 

Last month, Chief Justice John Roberts defended the integrity of the court, telling the Washington Post: “Yes, all of our opinions are open to criticism. In fact, our members do a great job of criticizing some opinions from time to time. But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court.”

Aside from the tumultuous Dobbs v. Jackson decision, perhaps Americans have an increasing level of distrust for the court due to recent scrutiny around SCOTUS spouses’ influence. This record-low approval rating broke on the same day that Ginni Thomas testified before the January 6 committee, which is looking into her involvement in propagating the false 2020 presidential election fraud claims—she is the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas. 

Ethical questions have swirled around whether Justice Thomas should recuse himself while hearing Supreme Court cases involving the 2020 election; Ginni Thomas said that she “never spoke” with her husband about “any of the legal challenges to the 2020 election, and she said her husband was also “unaware” of a text exchange with Trump’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about the 2020 election results. At a rally on Saturday, former President Donald Trump called her a “great woman” following her January 6 committee testimony.

Given a rare spotlight on the inner workings of the nation’s highest court, perhaps the Thomas probe caused other Supreme Court justices to become more private about their spouses’ business dealings. Politico reported that just one year after Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s husband’s law firm publicly announced the opening of a law office in Washington, D.C., she redacted her husband’s place of work in her most recent financial disclosure form as well as his clients. 

When Politico reached out to Barrett’s husband, it received a reply from a Supreme Court spokesperson: “Justice Barrett complies with the Ethics in Government Act in filing financial disclosure reports.” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tweeted that the response was “slippery” and that “the point is that justices have recusal obligations which (a) apply to all federal judges and (b) EGA disclosures ordinarily don’t reach. Eliding that is a tawdry trick.”

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