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Law | Law and Politics | Legal Writing and Research


Center for Constitutional Governance


This Article on Richard Fallon’s Law and Legitimacy in the Supreme Court focuses on public acceptance of the Supreme Court’s authority, what Fallon calls sociological legitimacy. After setting out Fallon’s accounts of legitimacy and constitutional argumentation, the Article looks at public opinion data and political science scholarship on the extent to which the Court’s decisions affect public acceptance of the Court. It then turns to the normative question of whether, even if the Court’s decisions may undermine its sociological legitimacy, that impact is a legally legitimate factor for the Court to consider. The Article argues that strategic consideration of the Court’s public legitimacy can be an appropriate factor in the Justices’ decision making, but such consideration may end up actually harming the Court’s reputation if undertaken openly and candidly as Fallon would seem to require.