Tag Archives: John Roberts

Chief Justice Roberts merely shows his independence

Political conservatives are angry with one of their own.

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has turned on them, they say, because he is siding with liberals on the court … on occasion.


The chief justice, to my way of thinking, merely is showing what happens when these men and women get lifetime appointments to the federal bench. They toss aside their partisan labels and start deciding cases on matters relating to the law.

That’s not good enough for many conservatives who believe Roberts should remain the conservative they knew he was when President Bush appointed him to the high court in 2005.

Roberts this week joined the court liberals by turning aside the Trump administration’s insistence on including a “citizenship question” when taking the 2020 census.

The previous day, according to Politico: “Roberts was the sole GOP appointee to side with the liberal wing in a case many legal conservatives were hoping would deal a major blow to the much loathed administrative state by overturning decades of precedent allowing federal agencies wide leeway to interpret their own regulations.”

Roberts earlier was the swing vote on the court that helped save the Affordable Care Act, which the right wing in Congress — and the president — detest merely because it was proposed by a Democratic president and enacted by congressional Democrats.. He also sided with the court progressives in declaring gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states.

Conservatives are angry. Some activists want him impeached. Why? Because he isn’t true to their cause.

This is utter nonsense! The founders established an ostensibly independent judiciary understanding that judges who take the federal bench well could upset the proverbial “conventional wisdom.”

Roberts has not flown off the rails in the 14 years since he joined the Supreme Court. So, he sides with liberals from time to time. The chief justice is entitled under the provisions set forth in the U.S. Constitution to interpret the law and to rule according to his understanding of what the law tells him.

Will there be rulings from Roberts that disappoint me? Sure. Am I going to yammer for Chief Justice Roberts’ impeachment?

No. Never.

Get a grip, righties.

‘Swing vote’ will switch chairs at SCOTUS

Before we get all worked up and apoplectic over the individual who will get Donald J. Trump’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, let’s consider the reality of the departing justice, Anthony Kennedy.

Kennedy has been hailed as a crucial “swing vote” on the court. He sides with liberals on occasion, but mostly sides with the conservative majority.

It’s good to understand that the conservative justices hold a 5-4 majority on the court. That majority won’t change.

Indeed, I am of the opinion that’s being shared that the next swing vote will likely belong to none other than Chief Justice John Roberts, who on occasion has sided with the liberal bloc of justices on key decisions, such as the ruling that upheld the Affordable Care Act.

The court’s conservative-liberal balance won’t change fundamentally, in my view, with whoever the president nominates.

The serious crap storm is going to erupt in the event one of the court’s liberal justices decides to call it a day.

However, the president’s selection — which he plans to announce on July 9 — is no doubt going to endure the kind of public scrutiny not seen since, oh, Robert Bork was defeated in 1987.

The symmetry of that fact also is fascinating.

The U.S. Senate rejected Bork’s nomination; then Douglas Ginsburg pulled out after admitting to smoking weed while in college. President Reagan’s third pick for the court? Anthony Kennedy.

Well stated, Mr. Chief Justice


How about that John Roberts?

The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has rebuked the U.S. Senate — here it comes — for playing politics with the appointment of the next justice on the nation’s highest court.

Chief Justice Roberts did not know he was doing so when he made the remarks, as they came just a few days before the shocking and tragic death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

He noted the partisan nature of the votes for recent appointees to the court. According to the New York Times: “Look at my more recent colleagues, all extremely well qualified for the court,” Chief Justice Roberts said, “and the votes were, I think, strictly on party lines for the last three of them, or close to it, and that doesn’t make any sense. That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees.”

The court, of course, has a vacancy to fill. President Obama has selected D.C. Circuit Court Chief Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat. Senate Republicans say they want the next president to make the call, denying the current president the opportunity to fulfill his constitutional responsibility.

Chief Justice Roberts, served with Garland, surely must believe his judicial colleague is as “extremely well qualified” as justices Alito, Kagan and Sotomayor — whose confirmations were approved on largely partisan votes.

Roberts is on point with his call to consider these nominations on the merits of the individual’s qualifications.

No one has heard hardly a whimper from anyone questioning whether Merrick Garland is qualified to determine the constitutionality of federal law.

The opposition is being mounted for purely political reasons.

John Roberts says such posturing should stop.

I happen to agree with him.

As the chief said in his remarks preceding Scalia’s death: “We don’t work as Democrats or Republicans and I think it’s a very unfortunate impression the public might get from the confirmation process.”


Will these justices stay away from SOTU?


Do you ever hear something from someone and think, “Damn! I wish I’d have thought of that”?

That happened to me today.

One of my Facebook pals wondered out loud if the only mystery surrounding President Obama’s upcoming State of the Union speech would be whether the three most conservative members of the Supreme Court would stay away, as they have done in recent years.

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Antonin Scalia all have been absent during Obama’s recent speeches before a joint session of Congress.

I’ve long wondered — as have others –whether it is because they detest the president’s politics so much that they’d rather do something else than sit in front of him while he makes policy statement with which they disagree?

Look, gentlemen, this is the last one of these speeches Barack Obama will give as president of the United States. Surely you can find the time — not to mention the courtesy — to attend this speech along with the rest of your colleagues. Chief Justice John Roberts usually attends, and he’s in the conservative camp right along with the three no-show justices.

It might have been a single event that ticked them off. That would be the time that Obama scolded the court for its Citizens United ruling that took the limits off of corporations and enabled them to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates. Justice Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true” when the president made his critical comments.

That was then. If the scolding is the reason, well, get over it, will you?

The president is entering his final full year in office. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will be there. Most of the Cabinet will be there; custom calls for one of them to stay away in case something catastrophic happens at the nation’s Capitol Building.

I hope all nine justices see fit to make an appearance. They don’t have to applaud. Just be there.


Justices vent their anger, show their fangs

What? Do you mean to say that the U.S. Supreme Court justices are human beings, with actual tempers?

I guess so, if the story attached to this post is any indicator.


The two huge rulings this week — affirming the Affordable Care Act and legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states — reportedly has revealed a growing schism between the two wings of the court.

Conservative justices don’t like the liberal tilt the court showed in the two rulings.

And at least one of them, Justice Antonin Scalia, said as much in his dissenting opinions.

Scalia and fellow Justice Samuel Alito appear to be angriest at Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined the liberal justices on both rulings. Kennedy was picked for the court by a conservative president, Ronald Reagan, as was Scalia; Alito was picked by President George W. Bush.

I happen to believe that Scalia and Alito need to settle down. It seems a stretch for me to believe that a high court headed by yet another Bush selection, Chief Justice John Roberts, is going to become a bastion of liberal constitutional interpretation.

OK, so the liberals won two gigantic victories. Obamacare stands and gay marriage is now legal.

There will be plenty of other fights along the way.

What’s more, the fact that Scalia wrote such scathing dissents shouldn’t surprise anyone. He’s known for using colorful language and is fearless in stating his case.

As for the court’s fifth conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, well … he’s always silent during oral arguments before the court. The day Justice Thomas erupts in a fit of rage might be cause for concern.

Next up for Supremes? Gay marriage

Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, with two conservative justices joining the liberals to form a majority coalition, it is fair to speculate about the gay marriage ruling that’s coming up.

My trick knee is throbbing and it’s telling me the court is going to declare that gay couples can legally be married.

What’s more, if conservatives think they’re angry now at Chief Justice John Roberts’s ruling in favor of the ACA, wait to see the reaction if he decides that the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause applies to gay couples.


Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, say that religious liberty is under attack. Cruz, who’s running for the GOP presidential nomination, told the Faith and Freedom Coalition: “I would encourage everyone here to be lifting up in prayer the court that they not engage in an act of naked and lawless judicial activism, tearing down the marriage laws adopted pursuant to the Constitution.”

There he goes again, using that word “lawless.”

The case under consideration deals with whether a gay couple can be married legally in one state and have it recognized in another. Federal judges have overturned state bans on gay marriage, declaring that such bans violate the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law for all citizens. Gay people are citizens, too.

The court surprised a lot of Americans — including me — by upholding the ACA.

I’m sensing a less-surprising outcome on the gay marriage issue.

The reaction, though, could be ferocious.

Three cheers for appointed federal judges

supreme court

Take a good look at this picture. It shows the nine men and women who have upheld the Affordable Care Act’s federal subsidy provision.

The U.S. Supreme Court has protected health insurance for an estimated 6.5 million Americans.

But to hear the criticism from the right in this country, you would think these individuals have just destroyed the U.S. Constitution they took an oath to uphold and to interpret fairly and without bias.

Thank goodness for the constitutional provision that allows these individuals to hold lifetime jobs, free of the kind of political pressure that forces elected judges at times to tilt in favor of interests whose job is to put heat on politicians.

The 6-3 ruling crossed ideological lines. Two conservatives — Chief Justice John Roberts and Associated Justice Anthony Kennedy — ruled with the majority. The three dissenters — Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito — held firm in their belief that the ACA violates the Constitution.

Six justices voted for the ACA; three of them voted against it.

Majority rule wins, yes?

Republican presidential candidates went ballistic. Mike Huckabee called the court majority “judicial tyrants.” Ted Cruz threw the “lawless” adjective out there — again.

The founders got it right when they made the federal judiciary an unelected branch of government. They intended for federal judges to be free of the pressure that can overwhelm elected politicians. Presidents feel it. Legislators feel it. They are elected to represent us all. We might not like all the decisions they make, but we have recourse: we can vote them out when the next election rolls around.

Not so with federal judges. They are appointed to lifetime jobs. Yes, they are appointed by politicians with particular biases and philosophies. The judges then are subjected to sometimes grueling hearings before the Senate, which has the authority to approve or reject their appointments.

Once they take their seat on the bench, though, all bets are off.

Occasionally, these appointees evolve into judges that their benefactors — the presidents who appoint them — might not like.

That’s part of the process the founders established.

And the irony of all the outrage being expressed by those who oppose the Supremes’ support of the ACA is that many of those on the right proclaim themselves to be “strict constructionists” of the Constitution. The way I read the Constitution, it states with crystal clarity that federal judges serve for as long as they want — or are able — to do the job.


Lynch deserves confirmation

Allow me to state once again my strong support of presidential prerogative in key appointments.

The current president, Barack Obama, has just nominated Loretta Lynch to become the nation’s next attorney general. The U.S. Senate will vote to confirm or reject the appointment. I join Republicans in wanting the next Senate, the one controlled by the GOP, to have a say in this vote.


But I always shudder at the prospect of trumped-up reasons by the loyal opposition coming to the fore during these hearings.

They crop up from both sides of the aisle.

The Constitution gives the president the authority to nominate Cabinet officers. It also gives the Senate the power to “advise and consent” to the appointments. I get all of that. I understand fully the “co-equal” aspect of government, which empowers the legislative branch with as much power as the executive.

Now that I’ve laid down those cards, I want to declare that the president is elected by the entire nation. Yes, the Senate — as a body — is elected by the same voter base. But it’s the president’s call on who he wants to serve on the Cabinet.

This president has chosen a highly qualified individual. Lynch is seen by both Democrats and Republicans as a workhorse. She’s fair and dogged in her pursuit of justice.

Now we’re getting some rumblings from the far right wing of the Republican Party that at least two senators want Lynch to state whether she believes a potential executive order from the president on immigration is legal. Well, the president has made no such order, so the demand to know such a thing deals with an extreme hypothetical scenario.

I’ve never backed away from this prerogative issue. I stood behind President George H.W. Bush when he nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court for precisely the same reason I back the current president. He’s elected by Americans who were told what kind of individual would receive these appointments. Thomas was qualified to serve on the High Court when the president selected him, although the American Bar Association’s recommendation was less than sparkling. Still, he was qualified.

I have stood behind President George W. Bush’s appointments of Samuel Alito and John Roberts for all those reasons.

My belief in the Lynch appointment falls in line what I perceive as the president’s prerogative as the chief executive of the federal government.

My sincere hope is that the Senate gives Lynch a thorough but fair hearing.

Chief justice going soft? Hardly

Conservatives reportedly are getting itchy over some recent decisions by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts.

Why, he’s siding with some of the Supreme Court’s liberals and that dreaded swing vote on the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He’s just not the dependable conservative they thought they were getting when President Bush appointed him to the court.


These nervous nellies on the right ought to relax.

I don’t consider the chief justice to be a toady to the right. He’s now holding a lifetime job and is free from the political strings to which he was attached when the president appointed him chief justice. It might be — and it’s way too early to tell — heading down a trail blazed by other formerly “conservative” justices who turned out to be anything but.

Chief Justice Earl Warren took his seat after President Eisenhower appointed him in 1953. The very next year, the Warren Court handed down the landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that effectively ended segregation in the nation’s public schools systems. Ike called the Warren appointment his biggest mistake as president.

President Nixon appointed Harry Blackmun to the court in 1971 and all Blackmun did was write the Roe v. Wade decision that ruled abortion to be a protected right under the Constitution.

President Ford named John Paul Stevens to the court in 1975, thinking he was getting a conservative jurist to serve on the court. Stevens turned out to be one of the leading court liberals.

And what about Roberts? All he’s done is side with the liberal minority on the court in a 2012 vote that upheld the Affordable Care Act. It was a narrow decision that didn’t bring about the end of the world.

The Supreme Court remains a conservative body. It has three hard-core righties — Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Roberts might be tilting more toward the center, hardly to the left. Kennedy remains the pivotal swing vote. The four liberals remain dependably so: Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor have formed a Fearsome Foursome of liberal jurisprudence.

The hard right just needs to chill out. I doubt that the chief justice is going to turn on them. Hey, if he does, then he’s joining some pretty heady company among justices who rediscovered their consciences and their principles.

Judicial independence bites Obama

Barack Obama has just gotten a taste of what many of his presidential predecessors have had to swallow as it regards federal judicial appointments.

Their court appointments didn’t vote nearly the way their benefactor — the president — wanted them to vote.

That, I submit, speaks quite eloquently to the need to keep the federal judiciary independent.


In two 9-0 rulings in recent days, the court struck down a Massachusetts law that regulated anti-abortion protesters and then it reeled in presidential appointment powers relating to recess appointments made when the Senate is not in session.

That means both of President Obama’s high court picks — Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — voted against the wishes of the man who nominated them to their dream job in the first place.

We hear yammering — mostly from the right wing of the political spectrum — that “unelected judges” wield too much power. This carping comes usually when the court rules against a cause or principle near and dear to conservatives’ hearts.

Indeed, the court has comprised many Republican appointees who’ve gone against the wishes of their presidential benefactors: Dwight Eisenhower picked Earl Warren to be chief justice and all Warren did was launch the Supreme Court on a whole range of landmark liberal court rulings, starting with the 1954 school desegregation ruling known as Brown v. the Board of Education.

Harry Blackmum (picked by Richard Nixon) wrote the Roe v. Wade abortion decision; John Paul Stevens (Gerald Ford) became a staunch liberal court member; Byron White (John Kennedy) voted “no” on Roe v. Wade; John Roberts (George W. Bush) voted with the majority to uphold the Affordable Care Act.

Now two of the court’s liberal justices — Kagan and Sotomayor — have joined their fellow liberals and conservatives on the court to stick it in President Obama’s eye on a couple of key issues.

So, let’s stop the griping about the federal court system. The founders set up an independent branch of government for a reason, which was to prevent its politicization when trying to interpret the U.S. Constitution.