What Chief Justice Roberts said:
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
What prompted his comment: After federal judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California temporarily blocked the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who enter the U.S. illegally, the President said that the decision was a “disgrace,” adding,
“Because every case, no matter where it is, they file it — practically, I mean practically — for all intents and purposes — they file it in what’s called the 9th Circuit. This was an Obama judge. And I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to happen like this anymore. Everybody that wants to sue the United States, they file their case in — almost — they file their case in the 9th Circuit. And it means an automatic loss no matter what you do, no matter how good your case is. And the 9th Circuit is really something we have to take a look at because it’s — because it’s not fair. People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly circuit and file their case. And you people know better than anybody what’s happening. It’s a disgrace. In my opinion, it’s a disgrace what happens with the 9th Circuit. We will win that case in the Supreme Court of the United States.”
This was—I don’t think it’s unfair to characterize it as “gleefully”—gleefully reported as a rare rebuke of the President by a Chief Justice.
- What Roberts said is obviously the official position of the head of the federal courts system and the top judge in the United States. There is nothing remarkable about the statement at all, except when he chose to say it. True or not, accurate or not, this has to be the Chief Justice’s position, and he has to be an advocate for that position.
- I generally agree with his position and statement. It certainly is the ideal. That does not mean that there is no difference in the judicial philosophies of Obama judges and Trump judges, or that whether a judge was a Republican appointee or a Democratic appointee has no predictive value on how such judges will tilt on certain issues. That does not mean that certain judges on the federal bench are not blatantly partisan. Or idiots.
- The news media and any Democrats chortling at Roberts statement really have astounding gall. Every report on a court case on a politically sensitive matter notes whether the judge was an Obama appointee or was put on the bench by a GOP President. Why do they do that, if they think it is irrelevant? Why did Democrats stoop to the tactics they did to try to destroy Brett Kavanaugh if federal judges’ political leanings were irrelevant.
- I would have liked to have seen Roberts’ predecessor, Chief Justice Rehnquist, make a similar statement when the Bush v. Gore decision was being attacked by Democrats—and the news media, of course— as partisan payback with Justice Scalia rewarding the party that appointed him to the Court.
- Roberts also could have made the same comment when President Obama was shamelessly impugning the integrity of the Supreme court by veiled and not-so-veiled suggestions that its decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act would be guided by party preference rather than the law. Instead, he became the surprise vote to save Obamacare. Hmmm. Perhaps Roberts was speaking of his own independence. Is there any doubt that if Roberts had voted with Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Kennedy to overturn the law, Obama and Democrats would have been making Trump-like comments about conservative judges?
- I fear that Roberts was virtue-signaling, making a necessary statement of support in a context where he will be seen as a critic of the President. I hope that wasn’t his motive., but it feels like a chap shot to me.
- Overall, I am glad Roberts said what he said. It was no more a rebuke of the President, however, than it was of every Democrat who has assailed Trump’s appointees, the former President, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and every other critic of Citizens United or Heller, and every pundit who savaged Brett Kavanaugh.