Did Chief Justice John Roberts Really Scream at Conservative Justices Over the Texas Challenge to the 2020 Elections

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

On Monday, as the members of the Electoral College were convening at statehouses around the nation to cast their vote for the next president of the United States, an interesting side drama was taking place in Austin, Texas, as the Texas electors convened to vote for the man who should be president.


After the votes were cast, Mark Ramsey, who is the elector from Texas’s 10th Congressional District, introduced a resolution:

Whereas, the members of the presidential electoral college from Texas condemn the moral cowardice of the United States Supreme Court, in failing to accept the original jurisdiction of a suit by one state against another, be it resolved that the members of the presidential electoral college from Texas call on the state legislatures of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Michigan, to convene and appoint their electors in accordance with the true constitutional vote of the people, or if undeterminable, by appointing their electors directly.

What happened next is fascinating. Matt Patrick representing the 32d Congressional District spoke in favor of the motion.

It was written by someone who was a current staffer for one of the current Supreme Court justices. I’ll just describe for you the report that I read, and you can make of it what you will. He said that the justices, as they always do, went into a closed room to discuss cases they are taking or do debate; there’s no phones, no computers, no nothing. No one else is in the room except for the nine justices. It’s typically very civil; they usually don’t hear any sound; they just debate what they are doing. But when the Texas case was brought up, he said he heard screaming through the walls as Justice Roberts and the other liberal justices were insisting that this case not be taken up. The reason…the words that were heard through the wall when Justice Thomas and Justice Alito were citing Bush vs. Gore, from John Roberts were “I don’t give a…about that case, I don’t want to hear about it. At that time, we didn’t have riots.

So what he was saying was that he was afraid of what would happen if they did the right thing. And I’m sorry, but that is moral cowardice. And we in the SREC (note, this is the State Republican Executive Committee), and I am an SREC member, we put those words in there very specifically. Because the charge of the Supreme Court is to ultimately be our final arbitrator, our final line of defense for right and wrong, and they did not do their duty. So I think we should leave these words in because I want to send a strong message to them.


In the end, the moral cowardice charge was dropped because the feeling was that this might hurt any other cases on the subject coming before the Supreme Court.

When this sorry spectacle’s history is written, the Supreme Court will not cover itself with glory. Regardless of the factual basis of the case, when eighteen states come to the Supreme Court on an issue which the Constitution says gives that court original jurisdiction, the sleight-of-hand dismissal engineered by Chief Justice Roberts was a shameful dereliction of duty. I understand why he didn’t want to deal with it; every day, we are all confronted with things which it is our duty to do but which we’d rather just not. What separates adults from f***ing children is that we do those things despite our aversion. When Roberts dismissed the Texas case, it was a textbook case of moral cowardice and cheap pettifoggery. What happens in the coming weeks, months, years that grows out of this election lies, to a great extent, at the feet of John Roberts, who should have acted and could have acted but decided just not to do his duty. And it is really a shame that this resolution failed to pass because it said what needed to be said in the way it needed to be said.

The other question is, did it happen. Mr. Patrick prefaces this anecdote with this disclaimer: “I wish I could give you a specific citation for this, but I didn’t make a note of it because it was something that I read this morning.”


Many things say that this is one of those stories that may have happened and should have happened, but it lacks proof. And what we do know says that the anecdote, unfortunately, is false.

Clerks for Supreme Court justices are notoriously tight-lipped. You’ll recall that the Supreme Court was able to keep a lid on the various hospitalizations and treatments of Ruth Bader Ginsburg despite tabloids willing to pay damned good money for information. You never hear a whisper about conferences where cases are debated and opinions assigned. So the odds of a clerk passing this along are slim.

More importantly, there is a huge factual error in the account related by Mr. Patrick. The Supreme Court justices have not met in person for a conference since March. So there is no closed room from which shouting could be heard. If someone were outside the doors of Roberts or any of the other liberal justices, they could have heard one person screaming. If they were outside the conservatives’ doors, they would not have heard anything unless one or more of those justices had a kick-ass sound system.

I’m afraid that as much as we might like to believe this story, we must, sadly, say that the odds of it being anything other than an allegorical treatment of that conference are just about zero.



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