NATIONWIDE – The months-long battle over the newest Supreme Court justice is over, but the scars from that fight may not go away anytime soon.
- Some worry what Brett Kavanaugh's spot on the bench may mean for the court’s decisions going forward
- One justice says the court relies on public trust for its legitimacy
- People ask will the public view the highest bench as legitimate or merely as a political branch
Questions continue to swirl around Brett Kavanaugh’s personal life, as some worry what his spot on the bench may mean for the court’s decisions going forward.
“The public belief in the court has been hurt,” said Stephen Wermiel, a professor at American University Washington College of Law. “How long that lasts, how deep seated it is, I think is hard to tell.”
The divisive, high-stakes confirmation fight played out on Capitol Hill, with many across the country and the world watching. Protesters crowded Senate offices and the streets in front of the Supreme Court in the days leading up to the confirmation vote.
The court relies on public trust for its legitimacy, as Justice Elena Kagan explained last week during an event at Princeton University.
“We don’t have an army, and we don’t have any money,” she said. “The only way we get people to do what we say they should do is that people respect us and respect our fairness.”
Over the past few decades, that sense of “fairness” has been personified by the so-called “swing justice” on the court, who sided with either liberals or conservatives depending on the issue. For many years, that swing justice was Sandra Day O’Conner followed by Anthony Kennedy in recent years.
With conservative Kavanaugh replacing swing vote Kennedy, the court is now moving further to the right. The question is, will the public view the highest bench as legitimate or merely as a political branch?
“I think the court will hopefully work very hard at demonstrating that it is and will continue to function, that its credibility is not impaired,” Wermiel said.