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Acid Finger-Pointing Between Supreme Court Justices

The chamber of the Supreme Court of the United States.

May 24, 2021

The U.S. Supreme Court has always been portrayed as a bastion of collegiality despite widely divergent ideological predispositions among justices. That facade appears to be crumbling. Justice Sonia Sotomayor recently wrote that a majority opinion authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh was “fooling no one” with what she called an egregious and twisted interpretation of past cases. In another case, Justice Kagan accused Kavanaugh of judicial “scorekeeping” when he tried to turn one of her earlier opinions against her. In March, Justice Gorsuch scoffed at his colleagues’ motives in a case that involved policing, claiming the majority blew past court principles to side with a New Mexico woman shot by police while fleeing the scene, because of “new policing realities” and an “impulse” to offer some remedy in these times. Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed, writing, “the dissent speculates that the real reason for today’s decision is an ‘impulse’ to provide relief … or maybe a desire ‘to make life easier for ourselves.’ … There is no call for such surmise.” Gorsuch has also suggested colleagues are seeking certain outcomes in a case, irrespective of the law. These loud disagreements come with rulings dealing with the explosive issues of guns and abortion looming on the docket.

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