Monday, December 18, 2006

Supreme Court Approval Ratings

Over at the VC, Orin Kerr passes on a report of Supreme Court approval ratings from a recent poll. Here are some of the individual results:

Chief Justice Roberts, 36% favorable / 26% unfavorable
Justice Thomas, 48% favorable / 36% unfavorable
Justice Ginsburg, 37% favorable / 35% unfavorable
Justice Alito, 35% favorable / 37% unfavorable
Justice Scalia, 35% favorable / 35% unfavorable

Way to go, Justice Thomas! Forty more years!

But seriously, my personal view as a conlaw scholar is that Justice Thomas writes some of the most thoughtful and well-reasoned opinions of all. I wish his views had prevailed in Kelo.

Rick Duncan

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I like Justice Thomas' opinions as well. I disagree with all of the Justices about 50% of the time, and I think that Justice Thomas brings an important, and different, perspective on things. A problem with his Kelo dissent is that his history isn't exactly right, but in overall approach his dissent is much more convincing than Justice O'Connor's.

Posted by: Ben Barros | Dec 19, 2006 6:40:27 AM

Can anyone explain to me why Justice Thomas was not content to stand by his own principled opinion in Kelo, but also signed onto Justice O'Connor's rather less principled dissent?

I should hasten to add that I am not persuaded that Justice Thomas's literal interpretation of the "Public Use" Clause is the correct, or even the most plausible or practical interpretation, but it is principled.


Posted by: Dan Cole | Dec 19, 2006 2:39:01 PM

One more thought: Given that the Court's role is often to prevent the majority from imposing its will on (various) minorities, I wonder whether a high public approval rating is something to which any sitting justice does, or should, aspire.

Posted by: Dan Cole | Dec 20, 2006 10:15:48 AM

Well, I think the Court's proper role is neither to represent political majorities nor political minorities. Rather, its role is to faithfully enforce the Constitution and federal law, or as Justice Scalia would put it, the Court's role is to interpret the Constitution not to sit as an ongoing Constitutional Convention engaged im "making" constitutional law.

Given this role, it is not surprising that Clarence Thomas, the Justice most committed to originalism in enforcing the written Constitution, has scored so well.

Posted by: Rick Duncan | Dec 21, 2006 6:46:29 AM

I assume with you that Justice Thomas is "most committed to originalism in enforcing the written Constitution," but is there any indication from the survey that those who were surveyed knew this or approved of him for this reason? Is there any information contained in the survey that indicates REASONS for the stated preferences?

Posted by: Dan Cole | Dec 22, 2006 12:10:55 PM

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