He noted that a man has been charged with an alleged attempt to kill Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was in the majority to overthrow him. roe. The California man, who was arrested near the judge’s house before the final opinion was issued, was upset by the leaked draft, authorities said.
Alito’s comments at an event at the Heritage Foundation included criticism of the court, relations between the judges and proposals to expand the size of the Supreme Court. His comments come as polls show public approval of the court has fallen to record lows after the conservative majority allowed tougher restrictions on abortion, expanded gun rights and limited the government’s power to tackle climate change.
Asked about criticism that the court has strayed too far from public sentiment and risks appearing biased when the precedent is overturned, Alito said he has no problem with the public, media and academics mistaking the legal reasoning behind the law. court in its judgments. But he disagreed with those who have questioned the court’s legitimacy.
“To say that the court shows a lack of integrity is quite another. That’s about character, not a disagreement with the result or reasoning. It’s about character,” Alito said.
Justice did not name a colleague, nor did the interviewer, John G. Malcolm of the Heritage Foundation, but both clearly referred to comments made by Judge Elena Kagan, who disagreed when the court destroyed the monument. roe decision. Kagan said at a July legal conference that the court’s legitimacy is threatened when a long-standing precedent is rejected and the court’s actions are seen as motivated by staff changes among the judges.
“A person is also crossing an important line when he says that the court is acting unlawfully. I don’t think anyone in a position of authority should take that claim lightly,” Alito said. “That’s not just criticism. That is something completely different.”
While he took some of the blame for pointed, impassioned language in the court’s opinions and dissent, Alito stressed that the judges have “always gotten along well on a personal level” and are eager to return to normal after the trial. restrictions of the coronavirus and the “changed atmosphere in the court after the unprecedented leak last spring.
“In recent years, we have not been so reserved about the wording in which we express our disagreements. I’m just as guilty as everyone else on that point,” Alito said, but “it’s not personal at all.”
In response to a question about proposals to expand the size of the Supreme Court, Alito said Congress should decide on the number of judges. President Biden convened a bipartisan committee of legal scholars to examine possible changes to the Supreme Court in response to Democrats’ calls to restore the ideological “balance” in the court, now with three liberals and six conservatives, including three judges appointed by President. Donald Trump have been elected. The committee’s report detailed disagreements over proposals to add judges.
Without extending his hand, Alito said on Tuesday that a court should not be so large that his work becomes impractical and warned against making changes for political reasons.
“If Congress changed the size of the court and the public understood that the reason for the change in the size of the court was to influence decisions in future cases,” Alito asked. “What would that do to the public perception of our independence and legitimacy?”
Robert Barnes contributed to this report.