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.

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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.

NEXT: Norm MacDonald and the Professor of Logic

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  1. Justice Josh Blackman, “I don’t care if the American people think the Supreme Court is corrupt or not, or if justices think long and hard about each case, or, if they flip a coin before voting.” Life tenure, judicial independence, etc.

    It’s a somewhat unrealistic view of human beings, and of Josh’s view that justices should not care about how 360,000,000 Americans view the SC’s deliberative process. (His OTHER point; that justices should not allow outside factors or pressure to *influence* how the justices vote…that is unarguably true.)

    1. Oddly enough, Josh didn’t say that.

      Seems you’re misleading with what you supposedly “quote”.

      1. Blackman said: “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.’ ” In my view, a Justice might give a slightly different answer: “Yes, of course I care. But I make absolutely sure that it has no effect on my decisions.” And if that’s what Barrett said, I see nothing wrong with it. It’s difficult not to be aware of what California Supreme Court Justice Otto Kaus, referring to the possibility that he could be voted out of office, called “The alligator in the bathtub.” But you have to screen it out when you’re deciding cases. That’s one of the hardest parts of the job, but it’s a critical part.

        1. Correction. Kaus said: “”You cannot forget the fact that you have a crocodile in your bathtub. You keep wondering whether you’re letting yourself be influenced, and you do not know.”

    2. Headline: “Did Justice Barrett Say She Was “Concerned About Public Perception of [the] Supreme Court”?”
      Blackman: “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.”
      Louisville Courier-Journal: “U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett told a crowd… here ‘My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks’…”

      There are no words to describe the gaslighting on display here.

  2. Lawyers are the stupidest people in the country. Among lawyers, Ivy indoctrinated lawyers are the stupidest. Among Ivy indoctrinated lawyers, nothing is stupider than a Supreme Court Justice. They are always wrong. They stink. If they do not stink after being nominated, they stink soon enough after being being seated.

    These changes can come from a Judiciary Act. Move the Supreme Court to the middle of the country. Make the number a legislative number, like 500. Make the number even to preserve precedent, for the value of stability. Exclude anyone who has passed 1L from the Supreme Court. Any decision written above the sixth grade should be void.

    1. The people at the diner intensely hate the Supreme Court.

      1. The diner people see the Court as elitist little tyrants, imposing their degenerate views on America that totally rejects them. Pro-criminal. Anti-business. Anti-baby. Pro-Democrat rent seeking. Anti-democratic. Ivy indoctrinated. Elitist. They know how we should live our lives. They summer in Europe and bring back sicko Euro trash ideas every year. Everyone is sick of them.

        1. Are you having a good conversation with yourself?

          1. How would that be possible?

      2. “Lawyers are the stupidest people in the country.”

        Which makes your jealousy of them come across as rather odd.

        1. They control the guys with guns and are imposing their stupidity by threat of violence. That has no validity, and their immunities justify violence in formal logic.

          1. Yes I can see that you have no supply of logic, formal or otherwise.

            1. We should have a contest. Take five random Daivd Behar posts and see who can find the most logical fallacies.

              1. Assuming there are no harmful side effects of jumping head-first into a rabbit-hole.

  3. Josh, are you claiming that this is the quote from Justice Barrett this weekend?

    “No. I focus on my job. People can perceive the Court however they choose.”

    That seems a lot different from press accounts.

    1. No, that quote is the blackman kid’s recommendation of what any justice or other should say when asked that question. He’s basically saying, lie if you have to.

      The blackman kid is not a fan of consequentialist opinions or even considerations. But the justices do it all the time, and always will. Lady justice may be blind to that sort of stuff, but scotus justices are not, no matter whatever their apparent external posture about it, or to whatever extent they have ignored consequences before.

      This is probably why the blackman kid gets so worked up about “leaks”. The consequentialist considerations of the justices are probably very frequent.

      Until there is a Justice Blackman Kid, there will be no absolute disregard for consequences.

      1. Of course he’s not claiming that. He says IF a justice is asked the question, they SHOULD have that response. He didn’t actually attribute it to anyone.

    2. “Josh, are you claiming that this is the quote from Justice Barrett this weekend?”
      Clearly he isn’t. The context there is clear.

      More to the point, this “quote” from ACB seems to be fraudulent.

      1. What quote seems to be fraudulent, and why does it “seem” that way?

        1. “What quote seems to be fraudulent, and why does it “seem” that way?”

          “Trump defeated in election he couldn’t steal”. And it seems fraudulent because our guy didn’t win, dammit!

  4. ” 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.” ”

    So sayeth the Clinger Sage of South Texas . . .

    Thanks for signing this one up, Prof. Volokh. He discredits your White, male, right-wing blog in ways I — as a representative of the liberal-libertarian mainstream — could barely imagine.

    1. Artie, isn’t it high time that you were replaced by a diverse?

    2. Artie shows how bigotry is done.

      1. As if you weren’t already fully aware?

    3. Reverend, you’re nearing DavidBehar at the ends of the horseshoe. Retreat!

      1. I am beginning to sense that faux libertarians and disaffected culture war casualties are never going to like me.

        Which is nice.

  5. Sadly, the AP have come around to the idea that they should report what the reporter thinks was said, or should have been said, or would have said if not afraid of being quoted. Journalism professors everywhere are so proud.

    1. Well, they are proud. Who do you think taught them that?

      1. Except, as noted below, they actually correctly quoted her, and Blackman is just wrong.

        The dangers if buying into a narrative so hard you forget to be critical of it.

  6. ACB and Kavanaugh used their lawyerly talents to help George W Bush steal an election and then lie us into an asinine war!

  7. Is there a transcript? That would answer the questions.

    1. Apparently this situation was anticipated, so, no.

  8. This press article has what are supposed to be direct quotes.
    https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/politics/mitch-mcconnell/2021/09/12/justice-amy-coney-barrett-supreme-court-decisions-arent-political/8310849002/
    “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” goes one quote. I think it fair to characterize that as concern about public perception.

  9. She was speaking at the (named after the cynical political hack who got her onto the Court) McConnell Center. She wasn’t about to say anything else. Were people wearing masks? Was this another super-spreader event?

    1. If you are trying to persuade people — reasoning, educated, modern people, especially — you aren’t a political hack, a speech at the McConnell Center, introduced by Sen. McConnell, seems a curious strategy.

      But maybe the handmaiden was merely following instructions?

      1. Democrats are the very definition of political hacks.

        1. Perhaps. The problem for conservatives is that Democrats are also better people — reasoning, tolerant, educated, modern, not antisocial, drawn to successful communities rather than desolate and ignorant backwaters — and therefore will control our society for the entirety of the lifetime of everyone who reads this today.

          The magnanimity of mainstream Americans is just about all right-wingers have going for them in modern America.

          1. Meh. There are other, better ways to be not-a-Republican than by being a Democrat.

            The main problem with partisanship is the number of partisans who are members of their party first, and citizens of their country second (at best).

    2. Why don’t you ask AOC that question….

      1. Did AOC claim to be nonpartisan?

        1. She went to a fancy party with rich people with words on her back.

          Obviously not meant to be taken seriously.

  10. “[T]his court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks.” I would be far more concerned about her using “comprised of” instead of “composed of.”

    1. But she said “not comprised of“, which you must admit is right.

      1. I, for one, do not admit that is correct.

      2. That is a magnificent comment, Allan L.

        Wasted on the gape-jaws who flock to this blog, though.

      3. “But she said “not comprised of“, which you must admit is right.”

        ^^^^^^^
        Wins the thread.

  11. Always a good idea to keep an eye on the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of the proceedings. Can’t be doing the law from 30,000 feet up.

    Mr. D.

  12. I do not care what the “AP” says.
    They get the same respect as the NYT & WaPo; none.

    1. And you imagine anyone should care what you say?

  13. Burying the lede – the demo outside Kavanaugh’s house.

    1. What, those tourists?

    2. The Chinese clearly learned from our mistakes. They wouldn’t let people protest outside a Chicom’s judge’s house. They’d spray them with bullets.

  14. “I am only concerned with actual words spoken by the speaker. I do not care about how some reporter characterized the words”

    Anyone else get a kick out of this coming from Blackman? That is like 3/4 of his posts

    1. I like how he then just made up some stuff he wishes the Justice had said, then put it inside of quotation marks. Perhaps so that people that “immediately do a CTRL-F for quotation marks” would be fooled?

      1. He lives in a world where things are true because he so badly WANTS them to be true. There’s more than a bit of this trait in modern Conservatism: climate-change-denialism, virus-denialism, election-outcome-denialism, plus I probably missed some -isms.

  15. 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.

    Oddly, the very Louisville Courier Journal piece that Prof. Blackman “couldn’t find a single quote … that expressed such a sentiment” says in the second sentence (and referenced in the headline itself): “My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks,” which is in fact “such a sentiment.”

    Meanwhile, the second place Prof. Blackman checked — the Louisville Public Radio — has that quote in its third sentence.

    Which raises the question of how Prof. Blackman does research.

    1. He searches for quotation marks.

    2. Who has time to do “research” when you have to come up with seventeen front page posts per day?

      As Steve Bannon so concisely put it, the goal is to “…flood the zone with shit…”

      And as for ACB, she sure chose a poor venue to dissuade anyone that she and her associates are not partisan hacks. The McConnell Center, and introduced by Mitch himself. Really? Either she was completely tone deaf or it was a deliberate “in your face” move.

      1. Let these dogs have their day. The reckoning approaches.

      2. I’m leaning towards the latter, but I won’t deny, if Breyer is any indication, there is a certain level of delusion about one’s self and one’s role that comes with being a Justice.

    3. ” Which raises the question of how Prof. Blackman does research. ”

      South Texas style!

      1. I assume that, typical of Conservatives, it’s a three-step process:

        1: What is the outcome I want to reach?
        2: Is there a plausible way to get there starting from facts?
        3: No? OK, then what’s the least implausible way?
        4: Don’t pick that one. Find a way to blame somebody we don’t like.
        5: Hugo Chavez did it, working with Hillary, Stalin, and bin Laden. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
        6: Retire to Florida.

  16. I don’t see why Justice Amy isn’t allowed to be concerned about the public perception of SCOTUS, or about the direction in which the current Pope is taking the Catholic Church, or about the price of fish. The important thing is that she ignores all those concerns when she’s a-judgin’.

    Fiat justicia ruat caelum does not imply an insouciant attitude to the falling of the heavens – merely that a judge should put the justicia bit ahead of the heavens bit.

    Of course one should worry about judges banging on too much about the things they are concerned about, lest they do indeed become Robertsian poll watchers, but we should worry just as much about judges who say that bringing the heavens down worries them not a jot – because then they’re just lying.

    1. I don’t see why Justice Amy isn’t allowed to be concerned about the public perception of SCOTUS, or about the direction in which the current Pope is taking the Catholic Church, or about the price of fish. The important thing is that she ignores all those concerns when she’s a-judgin’.

      Another good point refuting Prof. Blackman’s argument.

      ACB did not say — as far as we know — “I’m concerned about public perception of the Supreme Court so I’m going to rule a certain way on case X.” She said — as far as we know (and paraphrased) — “I’m concerned about public perception of the Supreme Court so I’m going to explain why you shouldn’t think badly of us”

    2. I agree with Lee.

      I see no problem with her being concerned.

    3. Or if they’re not lying, we should worry because they’re bad at their jobs as judges. While it’s not simply a popular vote, taking the world into account isn’t alien to the law, it’s often required, like in the standards for granting a preliminary injunction (harm to 3rd parties, public interest, etc)

  17. Blackman, you are a goofball. The headline is pretty reasonable given her remarks.

    1. Please cut Prof. Blackman some slack. He is just learning to lather the rubes. In time, I believe, he may get to be as good at is as Prof. Volokh has become. Until then . . . growing pains, learning curve, etc.

      1. What we need is daily outrage, no, I mean OUTRAGE!!!! and he’s just not performing.

  18. I don’t see why your proposed response is the only correct one. A justice SHOULD be concerned with the public perception of the Supreme Court, because it’s important. They just shouldn’t vote a certain way on cases because of that concern. Being concerned about something isn’t inappropriate; taking inappropriate actions based on that concern is the only problem. I’d expect a Supreme Court justice to be able to tell the difference.

    1. It is perhaps important to know that the law isn’t the law because 5 Catholics in black robes agree on what the law will be, but because the people of the nation either accept or do not accept what the law will be.

  19. Practicalities matter. And the Supreme Court’s power flows more from public legitimacy. Justices need to think about this stuff.

    Whether they should talk about thinking about this stuff I’m not so sure…

    1. Well, if they do talk about it, probably best to not share a stage with Mitch McConnell while doing so. When you find yourself in a hole the best strategy is to stop digging.

      1. Why wouldn’t a Supreme Court justice want to appear on stage with Senator Mitch? The only bad thing HE’s ever done is steal a Supreme Court seat… that seems like the perfect counterpoint if you’re trying to claim that you aren’t a political hack.

  20. Regardless of what she said, going to the McConnell Center to be introduced by Mitch McConnell, a man who lied about valuing the American voter on the Senate floor to further this project of remaking the Court, demonstrates at least one of two things about Barret:

    1. If she actually cares about public perception of the Court, she is completely oblivious to reality. Almost Breyer levels of delusion about herself, the Court, and the politics behind it.

    2. And the more likely, she is essentially a shitposting troll who is extremely contemptuous of other people’s intelligence and feelings about the courts. A slightly savvier and classier Jim Ho.

  21. “Indeed, protestors are demonstrating outside Justice Kavanaugh’s house!”

    Egads! It’s like they actually believe they’re entitled to speak freely, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances! Where on earth could they have picked up those radical leftist ideas? Next thing you know, they’ll be piping up with some nonsense about how every citizen should have their votes counted come election time!

    1. But don’t you understand? Justices are, by definition, “independent.” Therefore, protesting outside their homes is futile, and represents a rejection of the idea that they ought to be considered “independent.”

      It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the Justices, in fact, not being that “independent,” and citizens upset at this very problem, and responding accordingly.

      1. Independent of what ? You think Kavanaugh is taking orders from a secret cabal of Bushy Trumpy Foxy puppeteers ? If anything, so far he’s steering a politician’s path to pacify the mob.

        The idea of judicial independence is that judges are supposed to be protected from other people – typically the executive branch, but it could be other people – pulling their strings. That’s why they have lifetime tenure – to protect them from the threat of removal, which threat might otherwise undermine their independence from whoever had the power to remove them.

        Judicial independence does not encompass the idea that judges come, shrink-wrapped, independent of any opinions of their own, shorn of all the wisdom of their Latina-dom. Certainly they’re supposed to pack their prejudices away when they start judging a case, but that’s a different idea from the idea of “judicial independence.”

        Other threats to independence might be cutting their pay. Or threatening to appoint a pile of new judges to swamp them if they don’t start playing ball with the President’s program. Or blackmailing them with pictures of them in bed with rent boys. Or rent girls. Or rent sheep. Or physically threatening them. Which is where demonstrating outside their house comes in.

        Demonstrating outside a judge’s house is an attempt to intimidate – both the judge in question, and any other judge that might be thinking of deciding cases in a way that might annoy the demonstrating classes. It’s an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary. It’s an attempt to nudge the judge into a position of dependence on the mob. “Better lean our way, frat boy, we know where you live.”

        It may be a constitutionally protected attempt, but that’s what it is.

        1. “Demonstrating outside a judge’s house is an attempt to intimidate – both the judge in question, and any other judge that might be thinking of deciding cases in a way that might annoy the demonstrating classes.”

          Nonsense. Just like making a forceful legal argument in court is not an attempt to intimidate.

          It’s an attempt to ensure that the judge hears you. In court, the judge can tell you to shut up and make it stick. But outside the courtroom, not so much.

      2. “Therefore, protesting outside their homes is futile”

        Are they deaf, too?

  22. Josh, you are an idiot. Not news, no, but it bears repeating.

    The way that the media has characterized Barrett’s poorly-considered statements is a reasonably fair way of describing what is publicly known about them. She spoke with the express purpose of dispelling the idea that the Court is playing politics with its decisions, and the evidence she marshaled to support her position was clearly designed to try to persuade her narrower and broader audiences that decisions are being made fairly, on the basis of law, in accordance with the justices’ own judicial philosophies, and not in a way that would otherwise undermine confidence in the Court. That obviously reflects a “concern” with the “public perception” of the Court, notwithstanding that she might not have put it in precisely those terms.

    So that’s the first reason you’re an idiot.

    The second is that even the pat response you’d put in her mouth (“No. I focus on my job., etc.”) itself still reflects a “concern” with how the public perceives the Court’s work. It’s a statement that is designed to affirm, for the public, that the Court is “independent” of the vagaries of everyday politics and imbroglios caused by their decisions.

    The third reason you’re an idiot, and an unsophisticated one, is that the “public perception” of the Court is actually a very important part of sustaining its power. A conservative Court that is perceived as making politically-motivated decisions is one that will find lower courts engaged in all kinds of shenanigans – conservative circuits ambitiously striking down laws without the Court’s go-ahead, in anticipation that those decisions will find support from the Court, and liberal circuits devising procedural tricks (e.g., denying rehearing en banc, rejecting intervenors, etc.) designed to shield their own decisions from the Court’s review. In addition, a conservative Court that is wildly out of step with the political winds will find Congress and the President acting against it, perhaps to the point of flatly disregarding its opinions. Because what stops the President from ignoring the Court, apart from impeachment? And what makes impeachment an adequate remedy, apart from politics? We could expect similar consequences at the state and local levels. Imagine what would happen if the Court decided this term that fetuses are “persons” for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. You’d encounter a new level of defiance that has not been conceivable in the U.S. for some time.

    This is why all of your hackery is not just obnoxiously intellectually dishonest, but actually dangerous. You think you’re just devising new legal “hacks,” and positioning yourself for a plum appointment during a future fascist Presidency. You don’t see any problem with pushing the envelope of conservative judicial activism, because it gets you excited and you think it’ll be good for your career. But in fact what you’re doing is pulling at the invisible strings of abnegation and interbranch deference that have kept our nation together (more or less) since Marbury v. Madison.

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