U.S.

Chief Justice John Roberts avoids Supreme Court leaks and controversy


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It was one of the most controversial terms in Supreme Court history, with the shocking leak of a draft opinion that ended up reversing half a century abortion rights, public surveys that showed record disapproval of the work of the court and sharp disagreements among the judges themselves about the legitimacy of the court.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. chose not to address these or other controversies in his annual “Annual Report on the Federal Judiciary”, issued on Saturday. Instead, he focused on a high-water mark from the judiciary’s past — a federal district judge’s effort to enforce school desegregation at Little Rock Central High School after a landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision. Brown v. Board of Education.

“The law requires every judge to take an oath to perform their job without fear or favor, but we must support judges by ensuring their safety,” Roberts wrote in his nine-page report. “A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. The events in Little Rock teach the importance of the rule of law, not the mob.

Roberts thanked Congress for recently passing Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act, named for the son of New Jersey District Judge Esther Salas. Anderl was killed in 2020 when he opened the door to their home in what was supposed to be an attack on the judge.

The legislation allows judges to protect on the Internet certain personal information about themselves and their families, such as home addresses, certain financial data and their spouses’ employment data. It has an exception for media reporting, but some transparency groups worry that a broad interpretation of the law could hamper watchdog efforts.

Roberts also praised the “U.S. Marshals, court security officers, Federal Public Defender’s Office officers, Supreme Court police officers and their partners” for “working to ensure that judges can sit in courtrooms to serve society in the coming year and beyond’.

That’s about as close as Roberts got its 18th report to comment on today. The chief justice and other conservative members of the court have seen protesters outside their homes since a draft opinion leaked in May in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Orgin which a majority of the court reversed Roe v. Wade federal guarantee of the right to abortion.

A California man is facing attempted murder charges after he was arrested outside Judge Brett M. Cavanaugh’s home in suburban Maryland with weapons and a plan to break into the judge’s house.

Roberts announced an investigation into the draft leak Dobbs opinion in the spring, just days after it was published in Politico, calling it “a singular and spectacular breach of … trust that is an affront to the court and the community of public servants who work here.”

He ordered Superior Court Marshal Gail A. Curley to investigate the leak, saying “to the extent this betrayal of the court’s trust was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.”

The man accused of threatening to kill Cavanaugh has been charged

But Roberts has not publicly mentioned the investigation since then. Last summer, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch said the justices were awaiting reports from Roberts on the work, but nothing has been revealed other than leaked accounts of disagreements between the justices and their staff over attempts to review cell phone records.

This is just one argument to consume the court. Several media outlets reported what a former anti-abortion evangelical leader said were efforts to encourage conservative justices to be bold in rulings on the procedure. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr denied a specific charge by Rev. Rob Schenck to the New York Times that the judge or his wife disclosed to conservative donors the outcome of a pending 2014 case involving contraceptives and religious rights.

Alito denies predisclosing the outcome of the 2014 case

Congressional leaders asked the court to investigate, but Roberts, through legal counsel, said there was not much to investigate after both Alito and the person to whom he allegedly gave the information denied it.

Democrats in Congress are also questioning whether Virginia “Ginny” Thomas’ efforts to encourage state lawmakers and White House officials not to give up on efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. elections the results — reported by The Washington Post and others — should prompt her husband, Judge Clarence Thomas, to recuse himself from litigation related to the matter.

Those lawmakers asked the court to create a more formal code of conduct to deal with such issues.

Three years ago, Justice Elena Kagan told a congressional committee that the justices were “very seriously” considering having a Code of Judicial Conduct that applied only to the US Supreme Court. But aside from Roberts saying such decisions should only be made by the judiciary, the chief justice missed the chance to be specific about the plans.

Some thought the chief justice might return to such questions in his annual message, traditionally released on New Year’s Eve.

Instead, Roberts touted the courage of Judge Ronald N. Davis, who was brought in from North Dakota to lead efforts to desegregate Little Rock Central High School over the objections of Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus.

The bench from which Davis presided will be brought to the Supreme Court in 2023 as part of an exhibit on the court’s role in school desegregation, and specifically the efforts of Thurgood Marshall, who argued, brown and later because the first black Supreme Court Justice.

“The authentic bench will allow visitors to be transported back in time and place to events in Little Rock 65 years ago,” Roberts wrote. “The exhibit will introduce visitors to how the federal court system works, the history of racial segregation and desegregation in our country, and Thurgood Marshall’s tremendous contributions as a lawyer before he became a judge.”


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