On Saturday, Oct. 23, Kenyon’s Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD) hosted a seminar and Q&A session with law professor Michael Gerhardt P’25. Professor of Political Science and Director of CSAD David Rowe joined Gerhardt to moderate the discussion about the current state of the Supreme Court.
Gerhardt is a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. Gerhardt’s extensive background in constitutional law includes several appearances before the United States Senate for judicial confirmation hearings. He also testified at the impeachment hearings of both Bill Clinton and Donald Trump as a constitutional scholar.
Rowe initiated the conversation by addressing one of today’s most divisive issues: political polarization and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, a dense topic but nonetheless an important one. His response addressed the politicization of the court.
“The legitimacy of the court will always be in question,” Gerhardt said. “There’s always going to be a significant number of people who not only question it, but a significant number of people who understand that [the Supreme Court is] a political construct.”
The discussion then opened up to questions from the audience. Inquiries ranged from the vengeful relationship between certain members of Congress and the Supreme Court to the perceived integrity — or lack thereof — of justices on the Court. The questions reflected a growing sense of national uncertainty as the Court begins its 2021-22 session, which features a number of controversial cases, such as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and New York State Rifle & Pistol Organization Inc. v. Bruen.
Both professors came back to the fundamental idea of education as the best way to stay informed of political happenings. “Engaging in public education is probably the best thing I can do,” Gerhardt said.
Rowe was particularly appreciative that Gerhardt came to speak about the state of our judiciary. “The erosion of the Supreme Court’s legitimacy in the eyes of many Americans should be an important concern for all who care about the health of American democracy,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I am thankful to Professor Gerhardt for helping us better understand the historical context and political forces that have contributed to this outcome.”