John Roberts Defends His Court

Chief justice say critics questioning Supreme Court's legitimacy are making a mistake
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 10, 2022 9:35 AM CDT
John Roberts Defends His Court
Chief Justice John Roberts.   (Erin Schaff/The New York Times via AP, Pool, File)

Chief Justice John Roberts defended the authority of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution, saying its role should not be called into question just because people disagree with its decisions. When asked to reflect on the last year at the court in his first public appearance since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Roberts said Friday he was concerned that some critics of the court’s controversial decisions have questioned the legitimacy of the court, which he said was a mistake, per the AP. He did not mention any specific cases or critics by name.

“If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle," Roberts said while being interviewed by two judges from the Denver-based 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals at its conference in Colorado Springs. "You don’t want the political branches telling you what the law is, and you don’t want public opinion to be the guide about what the appropriate decision is." Roberts described the last year as an unusual and difficult one, saying it was “gut wrenching” to drive to the Supreme Court when it was surrounded by barricades every day. The barriers, now gone, were installed as tensions rose over the Roe case.

Opinion polls since the release of the abortion decision have shown a sharp drop in approval of the court and confidence in the institution. When asked what the public might not know about how the court works, Roberts emphasized the collegiality among the justices and the court's tradition of shaking hands before starting conferences or taking the bench. After the justices might disagree about a decision, everyone eats together in the court's dining room where they talk about everything but work, he said. He said it's not borne out of “fake affection” but a respect that comes from the push and pull of explaining ideas and listening to the responses to them. “We have a common calling and we act like it,” he said.

(More John Roberts stories.)

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