Brett Kavanaugh hinted at "concrete" plans for reform at the Supreme Court - a sign that the conservative majority may be buckling to a left-wing pressure campaign.
For months, Democrats and the liberal press have hammered a narrative that the court needs to be reined in by Congress.
The furor has been fueled by breathless media coverage of gifts that Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito received from their friends.
Alito and Thomas have responded to the attacks on their character with defiance - and Republicans have dismissed the ethics controversy as a contrived partisan attempt to discredit and ultimately take back the court, which shifted to the right under President Trump.
Democrats have been howling in protest ever since then, especially after a series of major decisions that the left disagreed with, particularly the Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. The left has attacked the court as out of touch, claiming it has lost "legitimacy."
Speaking at a judicial conference in Ohio, Kavanaugh acknowledged that "confidence" in the court has declined and said change is coming.
“We can increase confidence. We’re working on that,” he said.
Traditionally, the justices have been given a wide berth of discretion - and they have never been subject to strict oversight from Congress, being the most prestigious members of a co-equal branch of government.
Alluding to the court's traditional separation from the chaos of mass politics, Kavanaugh said the court needs to be the "calm in the storm."
"There’s a storm around us in the political world and the world at large in America,” Kavanaugh said. “We, as judges and the legal system, need to try to be a little more, I think, of the calm in the storm.”
Kavanaugh - who endured a brutal character assassination campaign on his way to the court - has become known as one of its more moderate conservatives, siding with the liberals last term on an important case involving voting rights.
The justices, both liberal and conservative, have often defended the court's integrity when it has, not infrequently, been called into question by frustrated liberals.
"My perspective is we’re nine public servants who are hard-working and care a lot about the court and care a lot about the judiciary as a whole,” Kavanaugh said.
He added that the justices want the trust of the American people, but "people are going to disagree with our decisions.”