Roberts pushes back against critics questioning Supreme Court’s legitimacy
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts defended the court’s legitimacy on Friday in his first public comments since the end of its last term, during which it issued controversial rulings including the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Roberts said at a judicial conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., that criticizing the court’s decisions is “entirely appropriate,” but argued that “simply because people disagree with opinions is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court,” according to Bloomberg.
Roberts warned against such criticisms, emphasizing the importance of the court’s unique role.
“If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle,” he said.
The chief justice added: “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.”
Fellow Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch was also present at the 10th Circuit Bench and Bar Conference, where he addressed the leak of a draft opinion in the Dobbs case that occurred earlier this year before the final ruling was issued.
“Improper efforts to influence judicial decision-making, from whatever side, from whomever, are a threat to the judicial decision-making process,” said Gorsuch to the audience of judges, according to the Wall Street Journal, adding that it is “terribly important” for the court to identify the source of the leak.
Roberts launched an investigation shortly after the leak occurred in May, calling it a “singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”
The leak of the draft opinion, which indicated the court was poised to overturn Roe, sparked protests outside the Supreme Court and some justices’ homes in opposition to the coming decision.
At the conference, Roberts described his daily drive through the barricades that were installed around the Supreme Court building amid the protests as “gut-wrenching.”
Roberts said that the past year was “difficult in many respects” for the court and its nine justices.
“I think just moving forward from things that were unfortunate is the best way to respond,” he said, according to CNN.
He noted that the barricades around the Supreme Court have been removed and added that the public will be allowed to attend the court’s arguments again when its next term begins on Oct. 3, after being barred from doing so due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The Supreme Court term beginning next month will deal with contentious issues such as affirmative action, environmental regulations and religious liberty.
The justices’ comments came the same day Vice President Harris expressed concern about the “integrity” of the Supreme Court following its Dobbs decision during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We had an established right for almost half a century, which is the right of women to make decisions about their own body, as an extension of what we have decided to be, the privacy rights to which all people are entitled. And this court took that constitutional right away. And we are suffering as a nation because of it,” Harris said, adding, “That causes me great concern about the integrity of the Court overall.”
— Updated at 11:24 a.m.