Tuesday at a New York synagogue U.S. Chief Justice Roberts lamented the perception SCOTUS is becoming politicized. He also does not think the justices’ decisions are guided primarily by their partisan affiliation. Those two things are an indictment of his naiveté.
The judiciary is under criticism for a reason
Roberts’ concerns about the impression of the court are indicative of his personal lack of understanding. Yes, the comments come during a highly charged political moment. The judiciary is getting hit from all sides. President Trump has repeatedly criticized federal courts and judges. They have blocked his policies, exceeded their authority and ruled politically regardless of the law.
At the same time some Democratic politicians have implied the court’s conservative majority is motivated mainly by politics instead of interpreting the law. The Democrats don’t seem to grasp that SCOTUS answers to the U.S. Constitution. Laws can be unconstitutional.
People see results of performance
Roberts said, “When you live in a polarized political environment, people tend to see everything in those terms. That’s not how we at the court function and the results in our cases do not suggest otherwise.” Roberts in November rebuked Trump after he called a judge who ruling against his policy barring asylum for certain immigrants an “Obama judge.”
In August, a handful of Democratic senators filed a brief in a firearms case the justices had agreed to hear. The senators were suggesting the high court was too influenced by politics. “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it…” the brief said.
Actions speak louder than words
The nine-member court begins its next term on Oct. 7. There is no working majority on the court. There are too many swing decisions for such a description to be applicable. Roberts is 64. Roberts appointment came from President George W. Bush in 2005.
Roberts said the justices do not work in a political manner. He said “A lot of criticism is based on a misperception of the court…” When justices consistently ignore the U.S. Constitution in making their decisions they are acting politically. That is their first charge.
Law is the framework, the Constitution is what you are sworn to support and defend
Roberts pointed out that of the court’s 19 decisions last term that split 5-4. He asserts only seven rulings divided along ideological lines. Ignoring that he admits there are ideological lines thereby refuting his own argument. Because there are ideological lines all SCOTUS decisions are political.
Roberts has emerged as the court’s swing vote since the retirement of Justice Kennedy. Being the swing vote does not mean he is the ideological center of the court. It also does not make him conservative. He has never been that, politically or legally.
Last term, the leftists on the court publicly raised the alarm over the pace at which the conservative majority was overruling precedents. On Tuesday, Roberts said the court must respect precedent. There is “no reason to suppose that I and my eight colleagues are any better at discerning the meaning of the constitution than members of the courts that went before us,” he said. John Roberts Believes in Santa Claus he refuses to acknowledge the obvious about his court.