Will the Supreme Court destroy the rule of law?

The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority appears to be as reckless as the president who appointed them.

In just the last 10 days, “the court has gutted limits on gun possession, severely weakened the wall between church and state, and taken away a right that has existed for nearly 50 years ― reinterpreting the First, Second, Fifth, Ninth and 14th Amendments in the process.”

Still to come this week: A ruling that could “crush the ability of the federal government to regulate everything from toxins in the water to the safety of consumer products.”

And likely on tap next year are “cases that could end affirmative action and eviscerate what’s left of the Voting Rights Act.”

None of this is popular with the public. As Barry Friedman of New York University Law School says, “The Supreme Court has not been this out of step with public opinion since the New Deal Court-packing fight in 1937.” Last week, Gallup “found that only one in four Americans have … confidence in the Supreme Court.”

In the past, the court moved “gradually, … haltingly, … in tandem with changing public expectations” on race, women’s rights, the role of government, and other culture-shaping issues.

Not anymore. Having seized the court by illegitimate means, conservatives are moving with lightning speed toward “a goal of rolling back legal developments that reflected cultural [and] societal changes over the last 50 to 100 years,” according to Leah Litman of the University of Michigan Law School.

“This is not business as usual,” says Jeff Seshol, a Rhodes Scholar historian. It’s a hostile takeover by an unpopular minority that’s straining the legitimacy of the court. They may think they’re sitting in the catbird’s seat, but “the Supreme Court’s legitimacy is fragile and relies on the public’s perception that it is fair and roughly in line with its values.” (Read story here.)

Rightwing extremists are already ignoring court orders (see stories here and here). The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing states to ban abortion is certain to provoke massive civil disobedience. If the court keeps going further, at some point a large majority of Americans may decide its ruling no longer deserve either respect or obedience, especially if they conclude the court is dishonest, as when Justice Gorsuch’s opinion lied about the facts of the praying football coach case.

I’m not saying any of this is good; it erodes the rule of law, and that’s very bad.

Conservatives are pulling us down a slippery slope.

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