Chief Justice Roberts accuses court of turning judges into ‘advice columnists’
Chief Justice John Roberts, in a dramatic first solo dissent, said a Monday ruling by his fellow justices would radically expand the court’s power and threatened to turn judges into “advice columnists.”
Roberts took aim at an 8-1 Supreme Court decision siding with a former Georgia Gwinnett College student who sued his school for $1 after it barred him in 2016 from discussing his faith on campus, violating his religious rights.
In dissent, Roberts argued that the minor pittance sought by the student, Chike Uzuegbunam, was not substantial enough to sustain a federal lawsuit, especially since the plaintiff was no longer a student and his former school had lifted the offending speech code.
Permitting the case to move forward, Roberts said, even though a legal victory would not change Uzuegbunam’s “status or condition at all,” amounted to a “radical expansion” of the judiciary.
“The Court sees no problem with turning judges into advice columnists,” Roberts wrote. “In its view, the common law and (to a lesser extent) our cases require that federal courts open their doors to any plaintiff who asks for a dollar.”
According to court watchers, the Monday ruling marked the first time that Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, penned a lone dissenting opinion in nearly 16 years on the Supreme Court.
Uzuegbunam sued Georgia Gwinnett College after school officials repeatedly ordered him to refrain from professing his Christian faith on campus grounds, claiming that he had failed to comply in various ways with the school’s speech code.
The lower federal courts dismissed the case, finding in part that the minuscule payout sought by Uzuegbunam was not enough to justify his legal right to sue.
The 8-1 court on Monday disagreed and revived the lawsuit, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority.