Every once in a while, we are reminded that civilization is a thin veneer: our cities become overwhelmed by riots, a hurricane invites a flood of looting, our border lives in chaos.
These events remind us that trust in our institutions—the police, the media, our lawmakers, even our churches—can and does collapse.
But when any of these institutions fails, another can typically fill the void or we can shop around for better.
With one exception.
The legitimacy of our judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, is irreplaceable in our democracy.
We trust our courts as the authoritative word on what the law requires, not what a politician finds convenient.
There is no other American institution that can serve this purpose.
Without independence from the political whims of the time, judicial rulings are not worth the paper they are printed on.
Justice falls to mob rule.
Monday’s unprecedented publication of a leaked draft of the opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization brought our nation one giant step closer to that nightmare scenario.
And then President Joe Biden and Democrats couldn’t resist giving it another shove.
To be sure, the judiciary was not completely insulated from leftist political pressure before this week.
In 2020, Senator Chuck Schumer marched to the Supreme Court, media in tow, to scream, ‘You won’t know what hit you!’ should justices side against his preferred agenda.
In 2021, Senate and House Democrats introduced legislation to pack the court with liberal judges to guarantee that they get the rulings they want. Then Biden appointed an entire commission to give the option legitimacy.
And an activist-funded mobile billboard that read ‘Breyer Retire’ was parked near the Supreme Court for months in yet another unprecedented pressure campaign from the left.
Nor was the Court previously impervious to some chatter from the inside.
It’s a common rumor that Justice John Roberts changed his vote at last minute to preserve Obamacare.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was fairly open about her dislike of President Donald Trump.
Every D.C. conservative lawyer knew early that Justice Gorsuch was going to find nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in a 1960s law meant to protect women.
But Monday’s leak is different, and those who don’t acknowledge it are facilitating the left’s push to rule by intimidation.
This leak was an unprecedented attack from the inside, purposefully inviting politics to affect legal decision making.
It was likely intended to ignite public outrage so fierce that it could convince a justice to change their mind to appease the mob.
And sure enough the mob erupted.
In downtown Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters clashed with police on Tuesday night. They threw bottles and rocks. At least one officer was injured.
Chief Justice Roberts, fervently committed to preserving the Court’s integrity, rightly blasted the leak for what it was: an ‘egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here’ that he would not allow to ‘undermine the integrity of our operations.’
He was right to do so.
Surely, President Joe Biden would do the same, but no.
Instead our nation’s leader (the healing and unity candidate, remember), took an entirely different path.
Instead of addressing any damage to our judiciary, Biden used the leak to further his political agenda, asking voters to elect ‘more pro-choice Senators and a pro-choice majority in the House to adopt legislation that codifies Roe.’
Instead of condemning the unknown leaker for doing historic damage to our nation’s system of checks and balances, he boasted that he has been keeping conservatives off the court for decades, a strange but frank acknowledgment that he has long trivialized the integrity of the court.
Vice President Kamala Harris went disturbingly further in her speech to the pro-Democrat, pro-choice activist organization, EMILY’s LIST.
‘Women’s rights in America are under attack,’ she declared, dragging the high court further down into the mud of politics. ‘If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, it will be a direct assault on freedom, on the fundamental right to self-determination to which all Americans are entitled.’
These are the leaders of our nation, whose role in a time like this is not supposed to be partisan.
But they apparently found this opportunity to take political advantage of a crisis too tempting, as their electoral hopes circle the drain.
Perhaps Biden’s shrug at judicial integrity isn’t surprising.
The Biden administration has long viewed the court system as a toy, not a fragile instrument preserving our freedoms.
His Department of Justice sought to use the courts to give $450,000 payouts to illegal border crossers and to prosecute parents who irritated political allies at school board meetings.
After the Supreme Court said the pandemic-era eviction moratorium was unlawful, the Biden administration renewed it anyway to earn political street cred.
‘For years the radical left has attacked the institution of the Supreme Court. Last night it appears their campaign hit a new low,’ Senator McConnell said Tuesday in a floor speech.
If the Court must battle for its integrity from detractors on the inside, it’s unclear whether the Court can win.
I know this because I worked in a White House besieged by leaks, one that even led to impeachment.
I remember an early major leak, to a document I circulated, no less.
In May 2017, President Trump traveled to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip.
His speech, a version of it, leaked hours before he was to go on stage.
This radically changed the way we shared information internally. Bosses cut subject matter experts out of decision-making. Colleagues pointed fingers at each other. Scared staffers leaked early to preserve their side of the story from later leaks.
It’s no way to run a government.
Supreme Court justices are also human. They are not immune to intimidation.
How will this breach of trust influence their debates behind closed doors? Will they grow distrustful of each other? What will this mean for future controversial cases?
The leaker has forgotten a simple truth in our democracy.
Tough political decisions are made in Congress and the States, and tough legal decisions are made in our courts.
By intertwining the two roles, the left threatens our future.
As Senator McConnell said Tuesday, ‘Liberals want to rip the blindfold off lady justice. They want to override impartiality with intimidation. They want to elevate mob rule over the rule of law.’
Even those who don’t view the leak as an attack on our democracy must acknowledge it at least deserves the attention of our president and bipartisan leaders.
Because I thought Democrats said they cared about our institutions.
Didn’t we have a $32 million Mueller investigation to look into Russian interference in our elections? Aren’t we holding January 6 attendees without bail for threatening democracy? Didn’t an entire Never Trump movement take hold because Democrats would allegedly be better institution keepers?
It’s time to turn our attention to preserving the independence of our Supreme Court.
Independent Women’s Law Center and Independent Women’s Forum take no position on abortion.