Conservative colleagues criticize Justice Elena Kagan’s comments about Court’s legitimacy

Earlier this month, The Hill reported that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan gave a speech at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law in which she implied that her conservative collogues the Court’s legitimacy into question.

Her remarks didn’t go over well with fellow Justice Samuel Alito. The Hill noted that during a recent interview, Alito accused Kagan of having crossed “an important line.” 

Alito says Kagan is wrong to imply “the Court is becoming an illegitimate institution”

“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit,” said Alito was told the Wall Street Journal this week.

“But saying or implying that the Court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line,” he added.

While speaking at Northwestern University, Kagan argued that the nation’s highest judicial body should avoid overturning precedent except in “unusual” circumstances when a “significant” change had taken place.

When justices do otherwise, she contended, they risk not “acting like a court” and thus undermining their institutional legitimacy.

Kagan went on to reiterate that message while appearing last week at Rhode Island’s Salve Regina University, saying, “The court shouldn’t be wandering around just inserting itself into every hot-button issue in America.”

“It especially shouldn’t be doing that in a way that reflects one ideology or one set of political views over another,” she added.

On both occasions, Kagan’s comments appear to have been directed at the Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In the case it decided that the Constitution contains no right to abortion.

John Roberts also objects to Kagan’s claim

Alito wasn’t alone in taking issue with Kagan’s statements, as The Hill reported that Chief Justice John Roberts did so as well at a judicial conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court,” The Wall Street Journal quoted Roberts as saying.

He stressed that this “doesn’t change simply because people disagree with this opinion or that opinion or disagree with the particular mode of jurisprudence.”