Chief Justice John Roberts — who has sparked demonstrations across the country since the court’s overthrow of Roe v. Wade last term — defended the court’s legality Friday night, while also admitting to driving into a setting each morning Barricaded Supreme Court is ‘painful’.
Roberts, who made no direct reference to the protests, said that all opinions of the court can be criticized, but pointedly pointed out that “just because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.”
Roberts, speaking to the judges attending the 10th Circuit Judges and Lawyers Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, noted that the metal barricades that had been installed around the building have now collapsed, and he announced that when the judges return to the bench to start work next The month is over, and the public can finally attend the debate in person again.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, who oversees the 10th Circuit and spoke on Thursday, sat in the front row waiting for the chief justice to speak.
Acknowledging that last year was “tough in many ways,” Roberts said he and his colleagues were working hard to rise above it.
“I think moving forward from what’s unfortunate is the best way to respond,” he said.
He also praised his new colleague, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, and announced that she will receive her official title on September 30. “She’s going to be a great justice,” he said.
Roberts spoke less than a month before the start of his new term as courts and the state are still digesting a clutter of rulings in a series of deeply divisive cases, an unprecedented leak of draft opinions and glimpses into an increasingly tense situation dominated by a radical conservative majority. driven court.
The new term starts on Oct. 3 in the shadow of midterm elections, and the justices will consider issues that deeply divide the public, including affirmative action, voting rights, environmental regulations, immigration and religious freedom.
During oral arguments and meetings, Roberts will try to set the tone for the lawsuit, navigating carefully through a court of six Republican and three Democrats, including Jackson, who was sworn in on June 30.
Roberts finds himself in an unusual position, as there are now five justices on his right who have shown a tendency to reject incrementalism in favor of sweeping opinions that sometimes overturn precedent. It may be called “The Roberts Court,” but the chief justice only gets one vote, and he is sometimes particularly sensitive to institutional issues.
“This term will once again test the chief’s influence over conservatives on the court, in particular,” said Gregory G. Garre, an attorney with Latham & Watkins who served as chief prosecutor during the George W. Bush administration. ) said in an interview.
Roberts has previously joked about the limitations of his character.
“I’ve known for a long time that when you’re in charge you should be careful not to tug at them too much – you’ll find they’re not connected to anything,” Roberts appeared in New England Law in 2016.
Last semester, Roberts’ conservative colleagues left him behind in a historic abortion case, Dobbs v. Jackson.
Roberts could have allowed controversial Mississippi law that would limit abortions to 15 weeks after conception, but said he would not reverse Roe, a landmark opinion that has been in the books for nearly 50 years . “I will take a more measured route,” the official wrote. No other justices have joined him in perhaps the most important case the court will make during his tenure.
“As Dobbs’ decision underscores, as one of six justices in the conservative majority, the chief no longer controls the outcome or scope of the decision,” Garrett said.
However, the term could yield a different narrative, as Roberts may join his conservative colleagues as the justices consider two areas: affirmative action and voting rights. In past cases, Roberts has made it clear that he is skeptical of racial preferences, and that he voted for narrowing the voting power.
“In previous cases, the Chiefs himself led conservative justices against the use of race in this context,” Galley said. “But the chief’s institutionalist instincts may lead him to push for a ruling that at least doesn’t overturn precedent in the field.”
The affirmative action case is set to go to trial on Oct. 31 as judges consider race as a factor in admissions at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina. (Jackson will not be involved in the Harvard case.)
In 2016, when a court upheld the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions program, Roberts dissented.
Also, in a 2007 Roberts-majority case, the court rejected race-based public school assignments in Seattle and Louisville.
“For schools that have never segregated on the basis of race, such as Seattle, or schools that have erased traces of past segregation, such as Jefferson County, the way to achieve non-race-based determination of public school admissions is to stop assigning students on the basis of race ,” Roberts wrote. “The way to stop discrimination based on race is to stop discrimination based on race.”
In 2014, the court upheld a Michigan ballot initiative that would ban race-based preferences as part of the state college admissions process. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a stirring dissent that explicitly repeated some of Roberts’ own language in the 2007 case. Roberts responded.
“The objection stated, ‘The way to stop discrimination based on race is to speak openly and frankly about race.’ It urged[r]Trump is important because contempt, snickering, silent judgment reinforces the most serious thoughts: ‘I don’t belong here,'” Roberts wrote.
“But it cannot be concluded that racial preferences themselves may have a debilitating effect that undermines this suspicion, and – if so – these preferences do more harm than good. Disagreeing with the dissenters about the costs and benefits of racial preferences is not “Hope to eliminate, not confront” racial inequality. People can disagree on this issue in good faith, but again, questioning the openness and candor of both sides of the debate can also do more harm than good.”
The court will also review the scope of Section 2 of the historic Voting Rights Act, which prohibits statutes that deny or deny the right to vote on the basis of race. The law has become a major tool against voting discrimination.
Controversial was a lower court’s opinion that Alabama’s congressional map may have violated the law. The lower court ordered another majority black district to be delineated. But in February, a 5-4 Supreme Court froze the ruling at the state’s request, temporarily allowing the use of the current map and agreeing to hear the dispute this semester.
Roberts sided with the liberals, arguing that the majority was wrong to freeze the lower court ruling. “The district court applied the existing law appropriately in its broad opinion, and there were no obvious errors for us to correct,” Roberts said. But crucially, Roberts added that while he would not grant the stay, he did think the court should Oral debates were held “to address the widespread uncertainty arising from precedent”.
Proponents of voting rights are on edge — realize Roberts wrote an opinion in 2013 that effectively invalidated a separate part of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approve.
“Things have changed in the South,” Roberts said at the time.
At the time, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a scathing dissent, arguing that the court’s move was akin to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you’re not getting wet. “.
Both disputes and a slew of others will come up as court approval ratings are at new lows and some of the last term’s opinions put the justices at the center of the political debate. In addition, a behind-the-scenes investigation into the Dobbs draft leak is still ongoing in court. While in public, the justices continued to stress the importance of civility, the last term’s decision showed renewed pressure.