“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” is a timely four-part docuseries that explores the history and evolution of the Supreme Court, particularly focusing on its modern era, from the progressive decisions of Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s to the present day, marked by a conservative majority that upended abortion rights and affirmative action.
The series dives into the concerns and growing distrust surrounding the Supreme Court, exacerbated by recent high-stakes decisions and internal controversies, including the unprecedented leak of the Dobbs abortion decision and questions surrounding the ethic of Justice Clarence Thomas.
Director Dawn Porter says she sought to shed light on the long journey that led to the current state of the Supreme Court, emphasizing the interconnectedness between the Court’s decisions and the nation’s evolving values.
“The United States Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in the world, determining the rights we all rely on. In this series, I wanted to explore the history that led us to this moment where we have a Court issuing rulings in a manner that appears more ideological than legally sound,” said Porter in a press release shared with ESSENCE.
“Whether they are ignoring precedent, cherry picking history to overrule long-standing precedent or deciding an unprecedented number of cases on the emergency docket without opinion, this Court is unlike any from the modern era.”
Porter told Deadline that she reached out to the justices to comment on the series, but they did not participate. “The closest we could really get were some clerks. The clerks abide very strictly by ethical rules, so the clerks will not discuss individual deliberations. They are bound by secrecy. And I feel like a lot of the clerks take their ethical obligations maybe more seriously than some of the justices. But they would tell you anything that’s been published. Anything that’s in court papers, we could report on.”
Recent stories about Justice Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor that have raised ethical concerns were published after the documentary series was completed.
But Porter added, “Whether or not anything improper is happening, appearances matter, and they matter because ultimately what we are talking about now is the American public’s confidence in the Court, and that is at an all-time low, and that is one of the reasons I wanted to do this series now, is people … are starting to question the validity of decisions. And if we lose that, we’re literally losing the rule of law. That is what America is founded on. That’s where we are today. That’s how serious it is.”
“Deadlocked: How America Shaped the Supreme Court” will premiere on SHOWTIME on Friday, September 22.