Chief Justice John Roberts on Friday defended the legitimacy of the Supreme Court and said it’s a mistake for people to question its authority just because they might not like certain decisions it makes. He was being interviewed by two judges from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at their conference in Colorado Springs. He said:
If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle. You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is, and you don’t want public opinion to be the guide about what the appropriate decision is.
Here’s certainly right about that. In his first public appearance since the controversial Dobbs decision overturning the flawed 1973 abortion ruling Roe v Wade, Roberts also said:
Yes, all of our opinions are open to criticism. In fact, our members do a great job of criticizing some opinions from time to time. But simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for criticizing the legitimacy of the court. [Emphasis mine.]
This comes after the court has sustained an unprecedented and dangerous attack on its legitimacy as a third branch of government. The verbal assaults have been led by President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Vice President Kamala Harris, among others:
We cannot allow an out-of-control Supreme Court and Republican elected officials push an extreme agenda that takes away freedoms and personal autonomy. pic.twitter.com/oA2JG0WNiF
— President Biden (@POTUS) August 27, 2022
There have been consequences to the continued offensive: a would-be assassin stalked Justice Kavanaugh in June, protective fencing had to be installed around the Court due to threats (it was partially moved only recently, but the building is still closed to the public), and illegal protests occur regularly outside Justices’ homes. Meanwhile, in an unprecedented effort to undermine the integrity of the Court, the Dobbs decision was leaked to the press in May by a still-unknown person.
Although Roberts’ comments should hardly be controversial—he’s merely reiterating the role set out by our founders for the Court in the Constitution —liberals were quick to foam at the mouth and start slamming him in editorials, tweets, and news shows around the country. CNN, Vanity Fair, the Washington Post, and many others all ran opinion pieces decrying Roberts’ impertinence in trying to stand up for SCOTUS. They’ve all become one voice howling into the wind, predictable, biased, and flat-out wrong. Attacking the nation’s highest court and claiming that its decisions are not valid is one way to end the rule of law in this country.
Here’s a sample of the vitriol:
Give me a break – Chief Justice John Roberts says it is "gut-wrenching" to drive past barricades everyday at Supreme Court – for starters he should try being a woman being denied control over her own body to understand "gut-wrenching" – maybe if he actually tried to reform SCOTUS
— Shanlon Wu (@shanlonwu) September 10, 2022
Chief Justice Roberts is concerned Supreme Court is losing "legitimacy." He has no one to blame but himself and fellow conservative justices! They have turned court into an arm of GOP by ending right to abortion, striking down gun laws, etc. My CNN https://t.co/aj8QCBVCA4
— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) September 12, 2022
An op-ed from The Washington Post accuses Roberts as being a whiner before describing a laundry list of virtually everything the court does as inherently devious. Their answer, of course: increase the number of seats. We’ll be seeing if they’re still singing that tune if Republicans win back the House and Senate in November.
Roberts would rather not address the root of the court’s credibility crisis: its conservative members’ blatant disregard of nearly 50 years of precedent, their misuse and abuse of facts and history, their penchant for delivering public screeds in political settings, their misleading answers in confirmation hearings, their improper use of the shadow docket, their prior placement on the shortlist of potential justices by right-wing dark-money groups attempting to transform the judiciary, their opposition to adhering to a mandatory code of judicial ethics — and a refusal by Thomas to recuse himself from cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, despite the anti-democracy activism of his wife, Ginni.
MSNBC‘s Maddowblog of course delivers a similar list, and comes to the same conclusion:
When Republican-appointed justices take aim at fundamental American principles, such as the separation of church and state, simply because they can, it undermines the court’s legitimacy.
You mean when they deliver opinions you don’t like. FYI, Maddowblog, separation of church and state is not mentioned in the Constitution.
There’s an easy answer to this, Democrats, and it’s not packing the Court or undermining respect in the institution or begging it to simply decree into law rights you think we deserve. The solution is to pass bills that are both constitutional and supported by the American people. With respect to many of these issues, you’ve simply been unable to do that—so you take the easy way out and just bash another branch of government for your failures.