Chief Justice John Roberts Speaks …

Yesterday Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued his annual year-end report on the federal judiciary.  The report is too long to replicate in its entirety, but there are a few salient points that are worth sharing.  A summary from the SCOTUS blog

The report began with the story of the Federalist Papers, which Roberts described as “America’s greatest civics lesson.” Roberts recounted how John Jay, one of the papers’ three authors along with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, “shouldered the lightest load of the trio, producing only five of the articles.” “Perhaps if Jay had been more productive,” Roberts observed, “America might have rewarded him with a Broadway musical.” But the reality, Roberts explained, is that Jay had fewer contributions because he was injured by “a rock thrown by a rioter motivated by a rumor.”

From there, Roberts segued to the need for civic education: “In our age, when social media can instantly spread rumor and false information on a grand scale, the public’s need to understand our government, and the protections it provides, is ever more vital.” Roberts described various ways in which the “judges and staff of our federal courts are taking up the challenge” of the judiciary’s “important role to play in civic education.” Not only are judges issuing opinions, now online, that the public can read, but the judiciary is also developing educational programs for students and the general public, courthouses are hosting “learning centers” and judges are participating in naturalization ceremonies. (Roberts did not, however, mention the practice of some federal appeals courts of providing live audio or video of oral arguments, which the Supreme Court has resisted.) Roberts gave a shout-out to the “current Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Circuit” – Merrick Garland, who was nominated but never confirmed to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 – for his longtime volunteer work as a tutor at a local elementary school.

Roberts also cited efforts beyond the judiciary, including the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the iCivics program founded by retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. (Referring to the video games created by iCivics, Roberts wryly observed that “[a]s they say, to reach people, you have to meet them where they are.”)

Roberts’ conclusion turned away from the topic of civic education to send a message to his fellow judges. Perhaps echoing his insistence in 2018 that there is no such thing as a “Trump judge” or an “Obama judge,” and with a docket full of hot-button issues for the Supreme Court to decide in the new year, Roberts urged his colleagues to “continue their efforts to promote public confidence in the judiciary, both through their rulings and through civic outreach.” “We should celebrate our strong and independent judiciary,” Roberts continued, “a key source of national unity and stability. But we should also remember,” he cautioned, “that justice is not inevitable. We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity, and dispatch.”

Supreme-Court-2019.jpgThe Supreme Court is our last bastion against the corruption in Washington.  More than once in the past years, I have been very disappointed in the decisions of the Court.  The most disappointing, I think, was their ruling in the case of Citizens United v FEC in 2010, a ruling that left the door wide open for corporations and lobbyists to literally buy the votes of members of Congress.  And just last June, the Court ruled that federal courts are powerless to hear challenges to partisan gerrymandering … another disappointment.

With the additions of first Neil Gorsuch and later Brett Kavanaugh, two judges appointed by Trump, but recommended by the ultra-conservative Federalist Society, a group with entirely too much power in our government,  the Court has swung too far to the right, and many question whether at this point we still have a fully independent, non-partisan Judiciary Branch as the Founding Fathers intended.  Chief Justice Roberts’ words in his annual report are encouraging and seem to indicate that he sees more than we may think, but with many crucial cases on the docket for the new year, the proof will be, as they say, in the pudding.

20 thoughts on “Chief Justice John Roberts Speaks …

  1. It is quite possible that Chief Justice John Roberts believes that he is speaking the truth about the judiciary, but there is ample evidence to the contrary. Back in 2017 I had read a very good column in Politico Magazine by Mickey Edwards. Through trial and error I was able to find it tucked safely within the vast domain of the internet. Titled “We No Longer Have Three Branches of Government” and dated Feb, 27, 2017. It is a lengthy read that is worth your time, but if you want to read the section that pertains to the Supreme Court go to the end and just read that part. Our courts are under attack more than ever before…consider how Mitch McConnell has been studiously and silently pushing judges that are his picks through Congress. The separation of the three branches of government as designed by the Founding Fathers is fast becoming a myth, mayhaps it already is one! Thank-you!

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    • I have found the article you referenced, and bookmarked it to read tomorrow, for tonight it is already 3:00 a.m., I am exhausted, and still have must-do work before I can head up the 15 stairs to bed. But, short answer, yes, I think John Roberts would like to believe that partisanship does NOT play a role in the Supreme Court, but we have evidence to the contrary. Sigh.

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    • Healthy? I doubt that, but long ago I concluded that the key is to stay busy and don’t let your body have the upper hand. I don’t cave to the aches and anomalies, but just keep on keeping on. Doctor’s offices are filled with germs — best avoided at all costs! 😉 Thank you for caring, Nan!

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  2. There may be no Obama judges, I don’t know, but there most certainly are Trump/repuglycan judges, the most obvious of whom is Brett Kavanaugh with his stupid little smile that tells us he knows he beat the system. Everytime I see that smug puss I want to barf all over it. Justice Roberts can deny all he wants, and he really wants to believe judges are non-partisan, but he is losing his inner sight. Believing is not seeing!

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    • I like that term … “repuglycan” … if I can remember it, I shall borrow it! Judges, most especially federal judges, are expected to be non-partisan and apolitical. That is why they are given lifetime appointments, and why their salary can never be reduced, even by an act of Congress. Of the nine, I would say that Kavanaugh is the only one I consider corrupt, and that is largely because he lied to Congress in his confirmation hearings. But, I am no longer convinced of the integrity of the Supreme Court, not even of John Roberts. Sigh.

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  3. Jill, America needs John Roberts to be above the fray. We need him to be a paragon of jurisprudence. Given the well-founded accusations of corruption, untruthfulness and indecency toward the US president along with his spineless sycophants maquerading as legislators, I hope he sees the vital importance of his role. Keith

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    • Jill, as I wrote this, I kept thinking how could people have voted the current US president with the same percentage as his predecessor as the most admired man. OK, I get the devotion of his base, but I see the most corrupt and untruthful president in my lifetime, including Richard Nixon. Conservative David Brooks says Trump “lacks common decency.” And, Republicans have done their best to not hear the words said by long time attorney and fixer Michael Cohen under oath, “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” Keith

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      • Exactly! The devotion of his base is because he has promised them something that is important to them, be it abortion or immigration, but … admiration? Surely they are more conscionable than to “admire” a ‘man’ who lies, cheats, steals, and makes no bones about it! I have to wonder what values those Trump supporters actually have … do they have any?

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    • I hope so too, my friend. I have gone back and forth on my opinion of Roberts. Sometimes I believe he is the definition of what a Supreme Court Justice should be, fair and impartial, and other times it seems that he is more dedicated to Trump than the Constitution. His call on gerrymandering left me with my mouth hanging open.

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  4. Transparency from the Justice Dept, minus the harmful partisan politics/ propaganda will go along way to regain the public’s trust. Appointing Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh put the final nail in the coffin in terms of fairness and justice. Where’s the separation of powers from the 3 branches of gov’t? Our system is rigged, and Repugs are trying their best to steal 4 more years of injustice and corruption. Sad part is Dems are complicit!

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