Democracy's Distrust: Contested Values and the Decline of Expertise

8 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2011 Last revised: 23 Nov 2011

See all articles by Suzanna Sherry

Suzanna Sherry

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: November 22, 2011


This response to Professor Dan Kahan’s recent Harvard Foreword, Neutral Principles, Motivated Cognition, and Some Problems for Constitutional Law, argues that while Kahan accurately describes the contemporary “neutrality crisis” and the consequent popular mistrust of the Supreme Court, he has mistaken its cause and thus proposes the wrong solution. Kahan attributes the crisis to “motivated cognition,” and asks judges to adopt techniques that rely on and foster an underlying popular agreement about cultural values. This response essay instead acknowledges the existence and inevitability of contested values in our constitutional democracy. The essay contends that the real causes of the neutrality crisis are the declining credibility of expertise and a growing popular belief – spread by legal academics (and others) who accuse the Court of politically motivated activism – that judges are legislators in robes. The solution thus cannot come from judges, but depends on a fundamental change in how we describe and criticize the Court, its Justices, and its decisions.

Keywords: Supreme Court, judges, attitudinalism, political judging, politics, expertise, motivated cognition

Suggested Citation

Sherry, Suzanna, Democracy's Distrust: Contested Values and the Decline of Expertise (November 22, 2011). Harvard Law Review Forum, Vol. 125, No. 7, 2011 , Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 11-44, Available at SSRN:

Suzanna Sherry (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

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