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Unpopular Supreme Court rulings can become ‘the fabric of constitutional law’

Unpopular Supreme Court rulings can become ‘the fabric of constitutional law’

In remarks at a conference in Texas on Friday, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh said rulings from the tumultuous period between the 1950s and ’60s, though unpopular at the time, eventually came to be accepted as “the fabric of American constitutional law.”

Kavanaugh was referring to the court under Chief Justice Earl Warren, which issued landmark rulings that expanded civil rights in the U.S. and is widely seen as having shaped key aspects of modern American society. According to The Associated Press, Kavanaugh pointed to rulings like Brown v. Board of Education and others on free speech and criminal rights to argue that the Warren Court was “unpopular basically from start to finish from ’53 to ’69.”

“What the court kept doing is playing itself, sticking to its principles,” he said. “And you know, look, a lot of those decisions [were] unpopular, and a lot of them are landmarks now that we accept as parts of the fabric of America and the fabric of American constitutional law.”

His comment about unpopular rulings may have been an allusion to the court’s deeply polarizing decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022. The ruling was met with widespread public disapproval and has left a messy patchwork of state-level abortion laws that have resulted in a dearth of access to reproductive care in large parts of the country.

The current Supreme Court, with its conservative majority, is itself hugely unpopular. Since the Pew Research Center began collecting public opinion on the high court in 1987, favorable views of the institution have reached an all-time low, and unfavorable views are at a historic high of 54% of respondents.

The justices are now considering rulings on a slate of major cases, including ones that will determine the scope of presidential power — and will have huge repercussions for the presidential election.

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