Press releases

Watch Kennedy’s comments here

WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today delivered opening remarks at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination hearing to become an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. The remarks include: 

“I hope we will be able to use this hearing today to talk about . . . two subjects. The first is the legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court. Where does the court get its legitimacy? What can we do to enhance it? Judicial legitimacy is important. I don’t have to tell you that. I’m rather fond of the Constitution. I know you are, too. When members of the United States Supreme Court interpret it, I want the American people to believe it. I want the American people to say, ‘Well, I may not agree, but the men and women who made that decision are intellectually honest and people of good faith.’

“One of the primary roles of the United States Supreme Court is to uphold the rule of law. And, sometimes, justices have to uphold the rule of law when it’s not popular. Sometimes justices have to uphold the rule of law when it’s not popular with the majority of Americans. Boy, that’s tough. It’s also important. Sometime—not generally, but sometimes—the majority can mean that all the fools are on the same side. And that’s what the Court’s there for.

“And I’m rather fond of the Bill of Rights, and I know you are as well. I’ve never believed that the Bill of Rights is there for the high school quarterback or the prom queen. They’re covered by it, but the Bill of Rights is there to protect the rights of people who don’t see the world exactly like everybody else or who don’t look exactly like everybody else.

“Now, unfortunately, through history, we have had people—some well-intentioned—who tried to delegitimize the Supreme Court. We have a president way back when who tried to impeach a Supreme Court Justice. . . . And most of the people who want to delegitimize the Supreme Court believe—unlike our founders, in my judgment—believe that the members of the Supreme Court ought to be and are politicians in robes. They believe that the United States Supreme Court ought to be a mini-Congress. They believe that the law is not the law—the law is supposed to just be politics practiced in a different way—and they believe in court packing. And they’re wrong.

“Number two, I hope today that we can use this as an opportunity to talk about if not explicitly, at least implicitly—that’s what I'm going to try to do—the appropriate balance between representative government and declarative government. 

“Now, in representative government, as you well know, people, through their elected representatives, make policy. In declarative government, policy is made by the unelected: the administrative state and the federal judiciary. Now, both are important. Both are important. I’m not saying this is a zero sum game, or either/or. But what’s just as important is that we have the appropriate balance between representative government and what I’ll call declarative government. 

“I mean, we have an administrative state. Did any of us ever think it would get this big? Is that healthy? We need to ask ourselves, ‘Is it really healthy to arrive at a circumstance where the administrative state passes 35 laws a year to our one? Is it really healthy to have an administrative state that makes its own laws, interprets its own laws, and enforces its own laws before courts, with respect to which the administrative state appoints the judges? I think that’s a fair question to ask. 

“With respect to declarative government, and the Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary—federal judges have enourmous power. They have to, but they do, they have enormous power. You’re appointed for life. You can’t be unelected. Your salary can’t even be reduced. And you have to have that power. Judicial power is important. So is judicial restraint.

“I believe that the appropriate role of the federal judiciary is the following: Federal judges don’t make law. They don’t tell us what the law ought to be. They tell us what the law is.”  

. . .

“I’ll leave you with these last thoughts . . . ‘The American people love democracy, and the American people are not fools. The people know their value judgments are quite as good as those taught in any law school—maybe better.  Value judgments, after all, should be voted on, not dictated.’

“I look forward, Judge, to getting to know you better.”

Video of Kennedy’s comments is available here.