The Volokh Conspiracy

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Did Justice Barrett Say She Was "Concerned About Public Perception of [the] Supreme Court"?

I have yet to see any actual quotation that expressed this sentiment.


On Sunday, Justice Barrett spoke at the McConnell Center, University of Louisville. The AP published an article titled, "Barrett concerned about public perception of Supreme Court." But did Barrett actually express that concern? Press were allowed to attend, but there were no recordings. With such an event, I immediately do a CTRL-F for quotation marks. I am only concerned with actual words spoken by the speaker. I do not care about how some reporter characterized the words. I've read every press account I could find, including the Louisville Courier-Journal and Louisville Public Radio. I could not find a single quote from ACB that expressed such a sentiment. Indeed, there is nothing in the AP piece that conveys this precise sentiment.

I will chalk the error up to some ambitious headline writer. But this headline caused damage. Most people never actually read the article. At most, they read the headline. And, conservatives who reads this headline would have reason to worry that ACB expressed this Robertsian sentiment.

If anyone ever asks a Justice if they are concerned with public perception of the Supreme Court, the answer is simple: "No. I focus on my job. People can perceive the Court however they choose." The existence of life tenure presupposes the Court will be criticized. And life tenure is designed to insulate jurists from those criticisms. Often, it is difficult to resist that pressure. Indeed, protestors are demonstrating outside Justice Kavanaugh's house! But judicial independence is essential to the judicial role. And preserving judicial independence is inconsistent with trying to monitor public sentiments about the Court.