Noting the bitter partisan divide which has widened and deepened in the past two decades, Chief Justice John Roberts sought to explicate the functions of the Supreme Court in front of spectators and law students at a New England School of Law one-on-one conversation in Boston on Tuesday.
Roberts’ emphasis on the distorted view of the Court was manifold; however, he was most intent on exculpating the court and sitting judges of existing as a largely political institution.
“People don’t have a really good understanding of what the court does and how the judiciary is different from the other branches of government,” Roberts told the audience.
Broaching the subject of the confirmation hearings, Roberts expressed a measure of discomfort with the magnitude of hostility which has recently overtaken Senate inquires of his colleagues.
Roberts referred to Senate confirmation hearings, a design which he finds “is not functioning very well,” and which have grown increasingly contentious, often leading to party-line votes for confirmation.
“When you have a sharply political divisive hearing process, it increases the danger that whoever comes out of it will be viewed in those terms. That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees,” Roberts stated. “It’s a process now where the members of the committee frequently ask questions they know it would be inappropriate for us to answer.”
Presiding over a Court often under intense scrutiny and the subject of fierce criticism for unpopular decisions, Roberts revealed:
“We don’t work as Republicans or Democrats.”
The High Court is no pantheon of villains.
To his grief, Chief Justice Roberts is forced to explain the rudimentary functions of the High Court to law students and visitors, fundamentals which should be easily grasped by young teenagers.
Because Roberts prefers to restrict access to the court from vexatious and wayward litigation and is inclined to confine the role of the Court to more closely resemble our Founding Fathers’ intent of solely interpreting law in contrast to making law, both he and the eight other justices often find themselves the target of vilification.
Assailed as a figure paralleling the arch-betraying Judas for his deciding vote in the Obamacare case, conservatives had hoped he would dismantle the law and were instead dumbfounded he and eight others explained where the law did and did not deviate from the Constitution.
Often, justices shed a predominance of their partisan convictions upon elevation to the High Court for the most self-evident reason: Unlike members of Congress and the occupant of the White House, the Supreme Court is immune from the fury of the electorate.
Roberts’ shaping of the Court and his “take-it-or-leave-it” method is irritating to Congress, a president, individuals and interest groups, all of which grew accustomed to the High Court’s propensity to act as an appendage of the legislative branch and exploit people’s grievances.
Only judicial purists understand his practices.
Chief Justice Roberts is a flawless example of this unique transformation. It is harrowing he is required to explain himself and the Court’s place in the American political framework.
[AP] [masslive.com] [Photo courtesy Politico]