Students Judged the Supreme Court on Constitution Day

This annual Constitution Day, students learned about the Supreme Court and scrutinized how politics has impacted recent court decisions.


Mariyam Syed

Photo by Mariyam Syed Students listen to Speaker Maggie Mendenhall Casey discuss the Supreme Court on Constitution Day.

Mariyam Syed, Staff Writer

College of DuPage students asked many thought-provoking questions during the annual Constitution Day event, which concentrated on the Supreme Court this year. A recurring theme in these questions was the politicization of the Supreme Court. Students wondered how the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) addresses racial, social, and political concerns of society, especially with controversial issues. 

In her presentation at the event, Maggie Mendenhall Casey, an attorney with the Chicago Law Department, explained that the Supreme Court is designed to be independent of the other branches of government. Their legal judgements aren’t supposed to be swayed by Congressional politics and debates. They should be grounded in constitutional interpretation and case precedent. However, many Americans are doubtful of whether the Court has upheld this principle.

Speakers of 2022 Constitution Day, Richard Forst and Maggie Mendenhall Casey (right) discussed the Supreme Court. (Photo by Mariyam Syed)

One student referenced a 2021 national poll by Grinnell College in her question. She stated that, “62% of Americans believe that SCOTUS decisions are driven by politics, rather than the U.S. Constitution and the law.”

Richard Forst, an adjunct professor of justice studies at COD, was also a speaker at the event. He responded, “I do believe the decisions handed down last summer, particularly, were driven by politics… In order to further a political agenda, laws are being upended. Previous understandings of law are being upended.” 

One such decision from June 2022 was the result of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, taking 49 years of precedent with it. In his presentation, Forst mentioned Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s recent talk at Northwestern University. She expressed concern that people believe the court has been flouting established law to impose personal preferences.

A student attendee who’s in a COD Constitution Law class, Su Shanahan, also said, “I agree with Attorney Casey and Attorney Forst that Supreme Court justices have been deciding cases based on their political views. This is a concern for me, because I believe that the Supreme Court should make decisions based on the constitutionality of something, not because of politics.”

In the instances that the justices do break from precedent, the American public usually becomes very divided. Casey pointed out that, “if you are going to be breaking with precedent, you should be sure it’s in line with public opinion.”

These public concerns also affect views of the Constitution. Students questioned how the Constitution can be applied to modern social matters in a changing society. Casey emphasized the importance of “our Constitution being a living Constitution and us having the ability to ratify amendments or pass laws. I would hope there’s more active involvement with our government in those areas, so the burden is not completely on the judiciary or on the original Constitution.” This speaks to people’s doubts about how effective or quick to act the Congress is. Casey explained the balance between relying on both federal branches for policy changes.

A full auditorium of COD students and faculty listen to the 2022 Constitution Day presentation about the Supreme Court. (Photo by Mariyam Syed)

SCOTUS justices are elected by Senate members who in turn are elected by U.S. citizens. From there, the duty falls on U.S. citizens to vote for the candidates they seek certain policies from. Forst advised students to vote and “pay close attention to senators. They are the ones who determine who federal and Supreme Court judges are.”

The Supreme Court reconvenes for the start of a new term on Oct. 3. People can keep track of the opinions issued this session through the Supreme Court website. For students interested in exercising their right as a citizen and heeding the advice of the Constitution Day speakers, there’s an on-campus opportunity to register to vote. On Sept. 20, the Student Leadership Council, along with COD Votes, will host a voter registration table. It will be in the hallway near the SSC 2214 room. Through opportunities like the Constitution Day forum and the voter registration table, COD students can learn about the government and how to address their concerns about it. Access the COD website to view the livestream of the event and past Constitution Days.