A growing number of people are criticizing the Supreme Court more sharply, including questioning its illegitimacy.
But remarkably, many of those same people continue to use the honorific “justices” to describe the members of the court.
Truthout recently published the piece “Noam Chomsky: The Supreme Court Is Wielding Illegitimate Authority in the U.S.” But Chomsky still refers to “Justice Alito.”
“The Supreme Court has a giant legitimacy crisis, which means so does America” writes Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He also refers to “Chief Justice Roberts.”
Jeffrey C. Billman in the Orlando Weekly recently wrote the piece “Last week proved just how illegitimate the Supreme Court is — and how much damage it can do.” He writes without irony: “Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, is a fucking nutjob.”
No matter how vociferous the commentary against the court and its members, the honorific “Justice” remains prefixed to their names with remarkable regularity.
The thing is, that’s not how the so-called “Chief Justice” — presumably the most “Just” of the “Justices” — views himself. John Roberts has said: “What is morally just and right — that’s not my job.”
And critics of the Supreme Court have concurred. The late Richard Grossman of the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy has argued that “Roberts is correct. He never promised ‘morally just and right.’ He took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. … You want ‘morally just and right’? Write a new plan of governance.”
The term “Chief Justice” does appear in the Constitution.
However, the pope is sometimes formally called “His Holiness” by heads of state and such. But how many journalists or regular people would use the term — especially if a given pope had said: “What is holy — that’s not my job.” And especially if they were arguing that the pope was illegitimate.
Until members of the Supreme Court actually pledge to uphold justice, they should not be referred to as “justices.”