Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts has been an unreliable conservative for the majority of his tenure on the high court, but Friday he perhaps gave up the “conservative” label for good, instead moving to fill the moderate slot left open by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. In what could actually be looked at as a personal rebuke of the president, Roberts joined the court’s four liberals to deny the administration’s request that the Supreme Court lift a lower court’s ban on preventing illegal border crossers from claiming asylum.
You will recall that Roberts was unusually public in his criticism of the president after Trump bashed Judge Jon Tigar for the original decision, shaming him as an activist “Obama judge.”
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.
Trump did not take this rebuke lying down, firing back immediately: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”
Indeed, and this ruling was a prime example of that fact. For a judge to decide that protecting our nation’s borders falls outside of a president’s scope of authority is outrageous. But that’s exactly what Tigar did, accusing Trump of legislating from the Oval Office. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (naturally) agreed with the ruling and upheld the injunction against the White House. The Supreme Court should have put this tomfoolery to an end, and the court’s actual conservatives voted to do just that. But Roberts, apparently afraid that voting for the administration would be an admission that he was wrong about “Obama judges,” decided to go with the liberals on this one.
This is why Supreme Court justices should, as well as they are capable, stay out of public commentary when it comes to current events. By all rights, Roberts should have probably recused himself from this case. By putting his own reputation on the line in that little tiff with Trump, he put serious doubt into his ability to be impartial, and the weakness of his ruling shows that it almost certainly played a part.