Like many American institutions, the Supreme Court of the United States is not held in as high esteem today as in the past. According to a new survey conducted by the research firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps, the American voter gives SCOTUS a “lackluster job performance rating” and views the court as “overly political.” What is surprising about the survey is that the left-leaning, Democratic Party-aligned firm found that Republicans have a slightly more negative view of the Supreme Court than Democrats.
Public opposes campaign finance decisions
Driving much of the discontent are the 2014 McCutcheon decision and the 2010 Citizens United ruling. These two landmark decisions overturned a century of campaign finance laws and tilted the playing field in favor of giant corporations and the super wealthy. The survey indicates bi-partisan opposition to allowing unlimited spending in elections. Citizens United was opposed by an 80-18 margin. There was also a cross-partisan consensus believing the 5-4 McCutcheon ruling will lead to more corruption in the U.S. political system.
No lifetime appointments
The poll showed a majority would like to abolish lifetime appointments to SCOTUS and have all justices serve no more than 18 years.
Allow sunlight (otherwise known as cameras) into the courtroom
The survey revealed 71 percent of those polled favor allowing TV cameras to film the Court’s proceedings and broadcast them live to the American public. The public also wants audio of the proceedings carried on radio and the internet. They want more transparency and accountability from the Court.
Decisions colored by political views
By a nearly two-to-one ratio, Americans believe the justices on SCOTUS often let their own political or personal views influence their decisions. In other words, they fit the facts to the outcome they wish to achieve rather than have the outcome based on impartial legal analysis. All political stripes agreed with this, and Democrats were actually less negative about the Court than Independents or Republicans.
Follow U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct
Crossing all party lines, 85 percent of those surveyed wanted to require that Supreme Court justices follow the U.S. Judicial Code of Conduct, the ethical code that binds other federal judges but from which SCOTUS justices are exempt.
Disclose outside activities paid by others
Some 80 percent of those polled support requiring SCOTUS justices to disclose any outside activities paid for by others, such as flights on private planes, speaking fees and gifts. This information would appear in their annual financial disclosure reports.
Rather than being impartial umpires, as Chief Justice John Roberts indicated a court should be during his confirmation hearings, SCOTUS often pursues a partisan agenda. Recently Justice Antonin Scalia read a scathing dissent from the bench in an environmental case. The only problem was that in his haste to tear into the Environmental Protection Agency, he misreported facts of an earlier case in which Scalia himself wrote the majority opinion, according to news.yahoo.com. Scalia contended that the EPA was again asking for the authority to weigh costs against benefits in determining how large a reduction in emissions it mandates. But in the prior case it was a trucking group, not the EPA, that wanted to use a cost-benefit analysis. Last year Scalia argued for judicial restraint in not wanting the Court to have the authority to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. But during the very same term, within days of the DOMA ruling, he had no qualms about tossing aside judicial restraint and having the Court overturn Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the VRA had broader support from Congress than DOMA did. This Court is now often on the playing field. But instead of being the umpires, they are the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. And that is beyond the purview of what a court should be.
Note: The survey was of 1,004 Americans over age 18, conducted from April 16-24, 2014. It has a margin of error of 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, according to Democracy Corps.
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