‘Common Law’ Looks at Why Public Perception of Supreme Court’s Legitimacy May Be Changing
The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent abortion ruling has shaken the public’s belief in the court’s legitimacy, political scientist James L. Gibson argues on the latest episode of “Common Law,” a podcast of the University of Virginia School of Law.
Gibson, the Sidney W. Souers Professor of Government at Washington University in St. Louis, says survey data shows the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling has affected public opinion about the institution more than any other court controversy in recent memory. Considering that views on the court’s legitimacy have been markedly stable over time, that’s reason for concern, he argues on the show.
Dobbs, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, ended longstanding federal protections for the right to abortion and has cast doubt on a host of other protections based on the underlying right to privacy. The 2022 ruling, an early version of which leaked in May, has proven unpopular, with Gibson’s data showing that 63% of the public disapproves of Dobbs.
Gibson joined “Common Law” hosts Dean Risa Goluboff and Professor Gregory Mitchell to talk about why survey data so far shows Dobbs has had such a negative reception, and also discusses his new book “Democracy’s Destruction?” about the legitimacy of American democratic institutions generally. Gibson’s research on Dobbs is published in the article “Losing Legitimacy: The Challenges of the Dobbs Ruling to Conventional Legitimacy Theory,” available on SSRN.
The author of 11 books and numerous articles, Gibson also serves as a professor of African and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis. He holds another appointment as Extraordinary Professor in Political Science at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.
In a continuation of last season, called “Co-Counsel,” the podcast’s fifth season features Goluboff and four rotating co-hosts: Mitchell, and Professors Danielle Citron, John Harrison and Cathy Hwang. Each are joining Goluboff to discuss cutting-edge research on law topics of their choice.
“Common Law” is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube, Spotify and other popular podcast platforms. The show is produced by Emily Richardson-Lorente.
Past seasons have focused on “The Future of Law,” “When Law Changed the World” and “Law and Equity.”
You can follow the show on the website CommonLawPodcast.com or Twitter at @CommonLawUVA.
Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.