The Supreme Court is unique in its ability to rule. Appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate, Supreme Court justices serve for life. For this reason, justices do not have to appease voters and campaign contributors to keep their positions. Therefore, the Supreme Court can make unbiased rulings based on its interpretations of the Constitution; this differs from elected officials who must answer to voters to get reelected. The ability for the justices to interpret law with an unbiased lens often puts them ahead of the curve (and public opinion) on cultural and social issues.
For example, in the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the justices ruled in favor of desegregation. At the time, the idea of racial integration in schools was extremely unpopular. The unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s decision was made evident in the ensuing public outcry as well as the response by government officials. Immediately after the decision, the Arkansas governor at the time, Orval Faubus, ordered the National Guard of Arkansas to block “Little Rock Nine” students from entering into the previously white-only school. Even after the Supreme Court had made its final decision, Governor Faubus didn’t budge. It took President Eisenhower to send the 101st Airborne Army Division to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Select a Supreme Court case related to civil rights, but unrelated to race, in which the decision did not coincide with public opinion. Think about how the policy effected by the decision impacted society.
With the case you selected in mind, reflect on the pros and cons of Supreme Court justices being insulated from public opinion.
WITH THESE THOUGHTS IN MIND:
Provide a brief description of the case you selected. Then, explain how the case did or might influence federal, state, and/or local public policies. Be specific and use examples to illustrate your explanation. Finally, with the case you selected in mind, explain at least one strength and one limitation of Supreme Court justices being insulated from public opinion. Be specific.
Support your response using the Learning Resources and other scholarly resources.