The Tragedy of This Supreme Court

Barry Dredze
5 min readAug 4, 2022
The US Supreme Court building behind an insecurity barrier (still frame from an NBC News video)

Recent rulings rolling back established civil rights, like abortion, have been described by some legal experts as a “tragedy” for this current Supreme Court.

“That’s the tragedy — one of the tragedies — of this opinion today is that it destabilizes the Court,” said MSNBC legal analyst Joyce Vance.

“Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked during oral arguments of an attorney arguing for the Mississippi law that would overturn federal protection of abortion rights established under Roe v. Wade. “I don’t see how it is possible.”

But the question is whose tragedy is it, really. How does an institution like the Supreme Court feel tragedy? How might a court feel it any worse than its ruling feels to the real live women and their families whom it directly and profoundly effects?

Our elected federal legislature is now overruled by a majority of conservative Supreme Court Justices, most of whom lied their way into the job during Senate confirmation hearings with lip service to “settled law.” Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the leaked draft majority opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (the case that overturned federal protection of abortion rights formerly enshrined as “settled law” under Roe v Wade), travelled to Rome, Italy, to say a few words at something called a Religious Liberty Summit put together by the Religious Liberty Initiative from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

“For starters,” wrote Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern in Slate, “there is the breathtaking conflict of interest at work when a justice gives faith-based speeches at faith-based events sponsored by faith-based parties who file briefs before the court.” If the conservative Justices do not appear bothered by their Court’s plummeting confidence among the people compelled to follow its legal rulings, continued Lithwick and Stern, it is likely because they “can’t hear…

Barry Dredze

Just another mortal, tweaking my cognitive map on the fly.