HomeLearning CenterThe Supreme Court Seems Bitterly Divided. Two Female Justices Say Otherwise.

The Supreme Court Seems Bitterly Divided. Two Female Justices Say Otherwise.

Originally published by Ann E. Marimow for the Washington Post

The bitter confirmation battle was behind her, and Amy Coney Barrett was the nation’s newest Supreme Court justice — a conservative protégé of the late Antonin Scalia whose antiabortion bona fides helped make her President Donald Trump’s pick to cement a 6-3 supermajority.

She was still celebrating at the White House when she received her first congratulatory phone callfrom the high court. On the line: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s leading liberal, an Obama nominee and the first Latina on the bench.

The unlikely pair are now headlining jointpublic appearances to make the case for disagreeing more agreeably at a time when the country is more polarized than ever and public opinion of the Supreme Court is at historic lows, with approval divided sharply along partisan lines.

The justices are at the center of a huge number of politically consequential disputes, all falling in an especially polarized presidential election year. The opinions they issue fromtheir stately courthouse, in view ofthe U.S. Capitol, often contain heated language and reveal vigorous disagreement. But sitting side by side onstage at two recent events, Barrett and Sotomayor insisted the vitriol ends there.

“When we disagree, our pens are sharp,” Sotomayor said, turning to look at Barrett. “But on a personal level, we never translate that into our relationships with one another.”

It doesn’t hurt, she and Barrett said, that their lifetime tenure on the bench means they are somewhat insulated from politics and not beholden to the presidents who appoint them. And the nine justices spend lots of time with one another, eating lunch together most days the court is in session and typically holding two private conferences a week to discuss the cases before them. Barrett and Sotomayor sit across the table from each other at lunch, in assigned seats that belonged to their predecessors.

“We don’t sit on opposite sides of an aisle. We all wear the same color black robe. We don’t have red robes or blue robes,” Barrett told a gathering of the National Governors Association last month as part of its Disagree Better initiative. “Our loyalty lies to the Constitution and the court.”

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