“Public scrutiny is welcome. Increasing and enhancing civics education is welcome,” Barrett said Monday during a judicial conference in Wisconsin, per the Associated Press. Without discussing any of the specific scandals that have made national headlines, she said it was both good and bad that the high court has been in the news so much. “To the extent that it engages people in the work of the court and paying attention to the court and knowing what the courts do and what the Constitution has to say, that’s a positive development,” she said. “To the extent that it gives them misimpressions, that’s a negative development.” Barrett also said the spotlight is bad if there’s a sense that the court has “let people down.”
With the carefully selected word “misimpression,” she is trying to suggest that reporters are painting a faulty or incorrect picture of the stunning corruption of Justice Clarence Thomas, who’s taken millions of dollars in gifts from conservative megadonors, and the near-authoritarianism of Justice Samuel Alito, who seems to believe that, despite deafening calls for an ethics code, Congress can’t touch the Supreme Court. (Alito made that claim in an “interview” published in the conservative op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, the same place where he chose to prebut his own ethics scandal.)
Earlier this month, Justice Elena Kagan said she supported imposing an ethics code on the justices. “It just can’t be that the court is the only institution that is somehow not subject to any checks and balances from anybody else,” Kagan said, adding, “I mean, we are not imperial.”
Barrett’s comments came during a judicial conference in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Barrett served on that court from 2017 until her nomination in 2020. Conservative Judge Diane Sykes “gently” interviewed Barrett (her former colleague), per the Washington Post, and didn’t ask anything about ethics scandals or a code of conduct.
It’s good, actually, that public polling for the Supreme Court has remained at record lows a year after the court’s entirely political decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. For far too long, the court has gotten away with framing itself as a neutral arbiter of laws rather than a group of unelected justices who rewrite decades-old precedents just because they have the numbers to do it.
Take what happened after Barrett’s own confirmation in 2020, which flipped the court to a conservative 6-3 supermajority. First, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case on a Mississippi abortion law—a 15-week ban that zero lower courts had upheld because it contradicted Roe—then it let the state change the question in the case from simply upholding the law to overturning Roe altogether, and, finally, five justices overturned Roe over the objections of Chief Justice John Roberts. When you consider all that, it’s even more wild for Barrett, specifically, to say that people have “misimpressions” of the court. Nope, people are finally seeing it for what it is: a blatantly political body.
Barrett also said that, when she was a Supreme Court clerk in the late 90s, the pre-digital news era, the justices were so under the radar that people would sometimes ask them for directions. (She clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, who took so many free, undisclosed trips that he literally died on one.) “People just didn’t recognize who the justices were,” Barrett said. “I think that’s better. I don’t think justices should be recognizable in that sense.”
Cut the shit Amy: We know you just don’t like the protestors near your house.