The U.S Supreme Court’s decision in Bush vs Gore, which effectively awarded the presidency to George Bush, was widely foreseen to diminish public respect for the U.S. Supreme Court. The Courts speaking of itself into a political disagreement and the perfect connection between the Justices votes and their supposed one-sided commitments raised widespread accusations that the Court had reduced a deliberately political decision. The willingness of Justices who ordinarily defended states rights to enforce severe constitutional limits upon Florida’s election trials made the decision particularly hateful to many of the Courts critics.
Awful predictions began among the Justices themselves. In his rebellious view, Justice Stephen Breyer warned that the decision threatened a self-inflicted wound. Justice John Paul Stevens spoke a similar threat. Stevens wrote that though we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nations confidence in the judge as an independent guardian of the rule of law. Stevens also feared that the Courts opinion can only offer credibility to the most pessimistic judgment of the work of judges throughout the land.
Hughes referred to the Courts notorious pro-slavery decision in Dred Scott vs Sandyford its disapproval to paper money in the legal tender cases in 1869 and its nullification of the first peacetime federal income tax in 1895. Hughes metaphor is remembered mainly in connection with his explanations about Dred Scott, and many of the Courts have predicted that Bush vs Gore will have the same lasting notoriety. Criticism of the Court is almost only absent from the popular media and there is no organized movement to limit the Courts powers. Moreover, opinion surveys last summer indicated that Bush vs Gore had not noticeably affected general public opinion of the Court.
The Gallup Poll agrees that there was a small point in bad attitudes toward the Court shortly after Bush vs Gore, but that opinion in June 2001 was exactly the same as it had been two months before the election 62 percent of defendants spoke approval of the Court, while 25 percent expressed disapproval. The University of Wisconsin’s Survey Center stated that public opinion toward the Court...