Chief Justice John Roberts defends the legitimacy of the Supreme Court docket

Roberts said, without directly mentioning protests, that all of the court’s opinions are open to criticism, but he specifically noted that “just because people disagree with opinions is no basis for questioning the court’s legitimacy.” “.

He said it was the court’s job to interpret the constitution – a job that should not be left to politicians or driven by public opinion.

Speaking to an audience of judges attending the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Roberts noted that the metal barricade that had been installed around the building is now down and he announced that when judges return to the bench for the start of a new term next month, the public will finally be able to attend the arguments in person again.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, who oversaw the 10th Circuit and spoke Thursday, sat in the front row for the Chief Justice’s remarks.

Acknowledging that the past year has been “difficult in many ways,” Roberts said he and his colleagues are working to get beyond it.

“I think breaking away from unfortunate things is the best response,” he said.

He also praised his newest colleague, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, announcing that she will have her formal inauguration on September 30. “She’s going to be a wonderful judge,” he said.

Roberts was speaking less than a month before a new term begins, as the court and country are still digesting the whirlwind of decisions in a series of deeply divisive cases, the unprecedented leak of a draft advisory opinion and glimpses of the growing tension in a court fueled by a aggressive conservative majority.

The new term begins October 3 in the shadow of midterm elections, and judges will consider issues that deeply divide public opinion, including affirmative action, voting rights, environmental regulations, immigration and religious freedom.

At hearings and at the conference, Roberts will seek to set the tone of the proceedings by carefully navigating a court composed of six Republican-appointed and three Democrat-appointed individuals, including Jackson, who was sworn in on June 30 .

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Roberts is in an unusual situation, complicated by the fact that there are now five justices to his right who have shown a penchant for rejecting incrementalism in favor of wide-ranging opinions that sometimes overturn precedent. It may be called “Roberts Court,” but the Chief Justice gets only one vote, and he has sometimes cast it with particular sensitivity to institutional concerns.

“This term will again test the chief’s influence on the conservative wing of the court,” said Gregory G. Garre, an attorney at Latham & Watkins who served as attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, in an interview .

Roberts has previously joked about the limitations of his role.

“I learned early on that when you hold the reins of leadership, you have to be careful not to pull on them too much — you’ll find they’re not connected to anything,” Roberts said, laughing during one 2016 appearance at New England Law.

Affirmative Action and Voting Rights

Last semester, Roberts’ Conservative colleagues left him behind in the historic Dobbs v. Jackson abortion case.

Roberts would have let the controversial Mississippi law that would have limited access to abortions to 15 weeks after conception go into effect, but said he would stop reversing Roe, a landmark opinion that has been in the books for nearly 50 years was. “I would take a more moderate course,” the boss wrote. No other judge has joined him in what may be the most important case the court will decide during his tenure.

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“As Dobbs’ decision underscored last term, as only one of six justices in the Conservative majority, the chief no longer has control over the outcome or the breadth of decisions,” Garre said.

That term could lead to a different narrative, however, as Roberts is likely to join his Conservative peers in judges considering two areas: affirmative action and voting rights. In previous cases, Roberts has made it clear that he is skeptical about racial preferences, and he has voted to limit voting rights.

“In previous cases, the boss himself has led the conservative judges to push back on the use of race in this context,” Garre said. “But the boss’s institutionalist instincts could lead him to push for a decision that is at least close to overturning precedent in this area.”

The affirmative action cases will hear Oct. 31 as judges consider the use of race as a factor in college admissions at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina. (Jackson will not be involved in the Harvard case.)

Roberts disagreed in 2016 when the court upheld the racially aware admissions program at the University of Texas.

Additionally, in a 2007 case with Roberts in the majority, the court struck down race-based public school assignment programs in Seattle and Louisville.

“For schools that have never been segregated by race, like Seattle, or that have removed traces of past segregation, like Jefferson County, the way to achieve a system that determines admissions to the public schools on a non-racial basis is not students assign more on a racial basis,” Roberts wrote. “The way to end racial discrimination is to end racial discrimination.”

In 2014, the court upheld a Michigan ballot initiative that barred racial preferences as part of the public university admissions process. Judge Sonia Sotomayor wrote a stirring dissent, clearly repeating some of Roberts’ own language in the 2007 case. Roberts replied.

“The dissent states that ‘the way to stop racial discrimination is to speak openly and frankly about the issue of race.’ And it demands that ‘[r]The ace matters because of the insults, the giggles, the silent judgments that reinforce that most debilitating thought of all: ‘I don’t belong here,'” Roberts wrote.

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“But it is not unrealistic to conclude that racial preferences themselves can have the debilitating effect of reinforcing that very doubt, and — if so — that the preferences do more harm than good. Contradicting the Dissident’s Views The costs and benefits of racial preferences aren’t about “wishing away rather than confronting” racial inequality. People can disagree on this point in good faith, but openness also does more harm than good and to question the sincerity of those on both sides of the debate.”

right to vote

The court will also examine the scope of Section 2 of the historic Electoral Law, which prohibits regulations that result in the denial or restriction of voting rights on the basis of race. The law has become an important tool to prohibit discrimination in voting.

At issue is a lower court ruling that invalidated the Alabama congressional card as a probable violation of the law. The lower court ordered the drawing of another majority black district. But in February, a Supreme Court 5-4 froze that decision at the state’s request, allowing the current cards for the time being and agreeing to hear the dispute during this term.

Roberts sided with the Liberals in dissent, arguing that the majority was wrong to freeze the lower court’s verdict. “The district court properly applied applicable law to our correction in a comprehensive opinion with no apparent errors,” Roberts said. But critically, Roberts added that while he would not have granted a stay, he believed the court should hold oral arguments “to resolve the wide range of uncertainties arising from the precedent.”

Supporters of voting rights are nervous — conscious that Roberts wrote a 2013 statement that effectively overturned a separate section of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to obtain federal approval before changing electoral laws.

“Things have changed in the South,” Roberts said at the time.

At the time, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a scathing dissent, arguing the court’s move was akin to “throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you don’t get wet.”

Both disputes and a host of others will come as the court’s approval rating is at a new low and some of the opinions of the last term have placed judges at the center of political debate. Additionally, the court is still dealing behind the scenes with an investigation into the leak of the Dobbs draft. Although judges continue to emphasize the importance of courtesy in public, the decisions of the last term revealed new tensions.

This story has been updated.

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