Supreme Court Justices typically maintain a collegial public relationship despite their profound philosophical differences. Even liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg maintained a legendarily close personal friendship with arch-conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.
But amid the current SCOTUS' rightward lurch, that friendly relationship seems to be fracturing.
This week liberal Justice Elena Kagan called out her conservative colleagues, blaming their recent spate of radically conservative decisions, like its overturn of Roe v. Wade, as damaging the public's trust in the SCOTUS.
Now conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the architect of the decision on Roe, has publicly fired back in comments to The Wall Street Journal in which he stopped short of mentioning Kagan by name but nonetheless made clear he did not appreciate her condemnation.
The back-and-forth began last week during a speech Kagan gave at Rhode Island's Salve Regina University, in which she implied SCOTUS conservatives abandoned jurisprudence and the Constitution in favor of simply doing the bidding of a radicalized White nationalist, Christian nationalist Republican Party.
As she put it:
“The very worst moments have been times when judges have even essentially reflected one party’s or one ideology’s set of views in their legal decisions."
"The thing that builds up reservoirs of public confidence is the court acting like a court and not acting like an extension of the political process.”
The comments came on the heels of similar statements Kagan made in May, in which she implied the Court has become out-of-touch with the public's ideals, a claim that has been borne out in recent months at least where reproductive rights are concerned.
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Alito seemed perturbed by Kagan's observations.
“It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit."
"But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line."
Alito's take ignores the fact three sitting Justices—all Trump appointees—lied under oath about their dedication to upholding Roe V. Wade as settled law during their confirmation hearings.
As for the public, they seem to be on Kagan's side. A June Gallup poll found just 25% of Americans reported confidence in the institution of the Supreme Court, a double-digit drop since 2021.
On Twitter, the Justices' swipes at each other definitely caught people's eye.
Alito's take did not sit well with most of them.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts also criticized Kagan's takes on the Supreme Court's legitimacy. Earlier this month, he implied her objections come down to simple personal beliefs rather than precedent or established Constitutional Law.
He told The Washington Post:
“Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court."
He added the Court’s responsibilities don't "change simply because people disagree with this opinion or that opinion or disagree with the particular mode of jurisprudence."