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Justice Kagan: High court must avoid partisan perceptions

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Associate Justice Elena Kagan said Monday that it “behooves” the U.S. Supreme Court to realize in these polarized times that there’s a danger of the public seeing it as just a political institution — and to strive to counter that perception.

Speaking at the University of Minnesota, Kagan said the high court’s legitimacy depends on public trust and confidence since nobody elected the justices.

“We have to be seen as doing law, which is distinct from politics or public policy, and to be doing it in a good faith way, trying to find the right answers,” she said.

Kagan acknowledged that the justices can be “pretty divided” on how to interpret the Constitution. But she said the view that politics guides their decisions is an oversimplification. The justices decide most of their cases unanimously or by lopsided margins, she said.

The justice didn’t mention a Marquette University Law School poll released earlier Monday in which 64% of respondents said they believe the law, rather than politics, mostly motivates the high court’s decisions. But the findings dovetailed with her remarks.

“It behooves us on the court to realize that this is a danger and make sure it isn’t so,” she said.

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