As the usual swing vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy has a strong hand in shaping the laws and policies of the United States. But maybe he sees his influence on U.S. law a bit undue. While teaching this week at the University of Pennsylvania, here’s what he had to say, via the AP:
Any society that relies on nine unelected judges to resolve the most serious issues of the day is not a functioning democracy.
I just don’t think that a democracy is responsible if it doesn’t have a political, rational, respectful, decent discourse so it can solve these problems before they come to the Court.
Most recently, he wrote the majority opinion for U.S. v. Windsor, the case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. Also recently, he sided with the majority, this time with the conservatives, in the divisive Shelby County v. Holder case, which invalidated a portion of the Voting Rights Act. Kennedy was the swing vote both times.
It’s not too much of a stretch to say that Kennedy’s was the only decision that mattered in these cases. In the 2010-2011 Supreme Court term, Kennedy voted with the majority 94 percent of the time.
In a lot of the cases, nine unelected judges is really only one. And it’s Anthony Kennedy.