Chief Justice John Roberts affirmed the independence of federal courts from “inappropriate political influence” in Friday’s year-end report. This comes amid widespread criticism of the Supreme Court and calls for drastic reforms. The chief justice of the United States, as head of the federal judiciary, summarized an extraordinary year at his court and in the 107 appeals and district courts throughout the country.
Roberts stated that decisional independence is crucial to due process and promotes impartial decision-making free from political or any other influence. Equally important, Roberts stated that the Judiciary’s ability to manage its own internal affairs protects courts against inappropriate political influence. This is critical to maintaining public trust in its work as an independent and co-equal branch.
Roberts has been the chief judge of the court since 2005. His remarks were made on the 100th anniversary of the Judicial Conference. This is the federal courts’ policy-making and administrative body. It is led by the chief justice and consists of rotating federal judges.
He stated that the Conference is focused on ensuring courts function effectively in the face of disruptions due to the pandemic as well as unspecified cybersecurity threats.
Roberts stated that the court was trying to reduce the lapses in ethics for federal judges who preside over cases in which they might have a financial or personal interest. For example, if Roberts owns stock in a company, he said. Roberts cited a Wall Street Journal report that detailed 685 ethics violations in federal judges over a nine-year period. This was only a fraction of the 2.5 million civil cases.
Roberts acknowledged that “criticism of the judiciary is inevitable”, but he didn’t mention President Biden’s Commission on the Supreme Court. This group was composed of lawyers and academics who were appointed to examine major changes to the Supreme Court.
Although the commission did not make any formal recommendations, it debated the possibility of increasing the number of justices and limiting term limits. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, stated this month that there is no timeline for Biden to review the report. However, many Democrats who support reform do not believe the president will make much progress on this issue, at least not in the midterm elections year.
Some progressives were angry that the conservative high court was too political after Trump appointed three justices to his one-term, tilting it towards a conservative 6-3 majority. This anger led to the creation of the commission.
Paul Smith, a Georgetown University professor of law, said that one of the problems for Democrats and liberals was the fact that there have been only four Democratic Supreme Court appointments in the past 53 years. Two by Obama and two each by Clinton.
The court’s wider reputation has been refocused by the high-profile, politically charged confirmations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
The Supreme Court’s work is being viewed negatively by more Americans. According to a Monmouth University survey, only 42% of Americans approve and 45% disapprove. This is based on a September Monmouth University (NJ), survey. Five years ago, 49% approved, 33% disapproved.
Justice Clarence Thomas stated in September remarks that “I think it sounds like you are just always going straight to your personal preference.” They believe that if you think they are against abortion or for something personal, then they think that’s how you will always come out. They believe you are for this or that. They believe you have become a politician. This is a problem. This will jeopardize faith in the legal institutions.
Samuel Alito and Stephen Breyer, Justices, also sought to protect the integrity of courts.
These federal policies will have an impact on certain healthcare workers as well as those who work for larger companies. They were to be implemented separately in the new year. The court quickly considered whether regulations could be implemented for now. This will be a significant test of the federal agency’s ability to implement national workplace policies during a crisis.
Separate abortion is a particularly divisive issue. Many legal experts predict that the constitutional right of medical procedure, as guaranteed by the 1973 Roe V Wade decision, will be severely curtailed or struck down.
The question is whether any state law prohibiting pre-viability elective abortions is unconstitutional. Mississippi officials boldly ask the court to reverse the Roe precedent. Mississippi abortions are legal until the 24th Week, which is the point at which the fetus is able to survive outside of the womb.
Mississippi’s law would prohibit abortions after 15-weeks. The court seemed to tentatively support this position when the case was heard in December.
Elizabeth Wydra, president and CEO of the left-leaning Constitutional Accountability Center, stated that “this Court has never recognized-and then taken away-fundamental right millions of Americans have relied upon to determine the course and participate in American life.”
Carrie Severino of the right-leaning Judicial Crisis Network said that the key point of discussion for court conservatives was the question of state discretion to enact abortion restrictions.
The Supreme Court granted a separate appeal regarding abortion rights, three weeks ago. It allowed a Texas lawsuit by providers of abortion to proceed over the six-week ban.
In addition to the cases on the docket currently, the high court could add more hot-button petitions in the coming weeks, including a pending dispute about Harvard University’s admissions policies.
As a way to increase diversity on campus, some Asian American students are questioning the use of race in admissions. They claim affirmative action policies make it easier to admit Black and Hispanic students while denying Asian American students admission.
A pending appeal is being made to determine whether the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots in the Capitol can access documents from former president Trump. In an effort to protect their release, he has used executive privilege.
A new White House occupant brought about one change in federal courts already in progress. Contrary to his two predecessors Democrats, President Biden was aggressive in appointing federal judges. He got more confirmed than any president since Ronald Reagan’s 1981 election.