“Does (a decision) read like something that was purely results driven and designed to impose the policy preferences of the majority, or does this read like it actually is an honest effort and persuasive effort, even if one you ultimately don’t agree with, to determine what the Constitution and precedent requires?”
—-Justice Amy Coney Bryant during remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, explaining how Supreme Court decisions should be judged and assessed.
She predicated that advice with the recommendation, “Read the opinion.” Of course, most Supreme Court critics, even those writing op-ed critiques, often don’t bother to read SCOTUS opinions. The public almost never does, and the vast majority of the public is inadequately educated to understand the opinions if they did read them. Its so much easier to treat holdings that clash with one’s politic preferences as politically-driven positions rather than carefully worked out exercises in law, history and balancing of rights and interests.
Americans should judge the court — or any federal court — by its reasoning, Is its reasoning that of a political or legislative body, or is its reasoning judicial?
Going through law school, if nothing else, will teach one to not only read Supreme Court opinions, but to appreciate them. The best are fascinating: extremely sharp minds showing the process of their thinking involving challenging problems Many are extremely well written; some, like the late Justice Scalia’s opinions and especially his dissents, are also entertaining.
Anyone who won’t or can’t read the full opinion in a Supreme Court case has no business complaining about it or rendering any opinion whatsoever. When someone on Facebook or elsewhere starts ranting about a controversial holding, I always ask, “Have you read the opinion?” Usually this is followed by “Huminahuminahumina…well <cough>I skimmed it,” which is a lie: you can’t “skim” SCOTUS opinions. They are intended to be read as carefully as they were written.
They sad fact is that most of the time the critics don’t want to read the opinion. They just want to join their friends in a pre-determined political position. That’s so much easier.