Video: Roberts not exactly beloved by his colleagues

posted at 2:41 pm on July 9, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The biggest buzz from yesterday’s talk shows didn’t come from the politicians, but from CBS’ Jan Crawford and her report on bruised feelings at the Supreme Court in the wake of the decision to uphold ObamaCare.  In a continuing series of leaks from behind perhaps the heretofore most secure institution in Washington, Crawford reports that conservatives on the court are “furious” with Chief Justice John Roberts over what they see as betrayal, and it’s not just the conservatives who are unhappy with Roberts, either:

Conservatives feel a sense of betrayal. They feel that Roberts changed his mind for the wrong reasons.

If Roberts had been with the liberals from the beginning, sources tell me that would have been one thing; but switching his position – and relatively late in the process – infuriated the conservatives. …

When he changed his mind and joined with the liberals to uphold the law instead, he tried furiously – with a fair amount of “arm twisting” – to get Justice Anthony Kennedy to come along. Kennedy sometimes breaks with conservatives, so Roberts likely saw him as his best hope.

But on this issue of federal power, Kennedy was firm. The conservatives refused to even engage with Roberts on joining his opinion to uphold the law. They set out writing their own opinion – they wrote it to look like a majority decision, according to sources, because they hoped Roberts would rejoin them to strike down the mandate. Kennedy relentlessly lobbied Roberts until the end to come back. Of course he did not, and the conservatives’ decision became a dissent.

Now this conflict has been brewing for some time. You can trace it back to the first full term of the new Roberts Court. That term had several controversial cases, including school busing and abortion. Liberal justices thought Roberts had signaled he would be open to compromise and be more moderate. But he sided with conservatives that year, making the liberals feel misled. They were furious. As one said at the time: “He talks the talk, but won’t walk the walk.”

Conservatives were angry at Roberts, too – they thought he gave the liberals false hope. He ended up just pushing them further away.

Having conflict between justices on the court probably isn’t anything new.  Having these kind of leaks about it is.  That seems to speak to the depth of the anger from the conservative wing of the court, and perhaps to the erosion of comity and commitment to professional courtesy.  It’s one thing to have people engage in reading tea leaves based on the wording of the opinions from various cases, but it’s something new to have people on the inside talking so freely about interpersonal conflicts at the Supreme Court, and so soon after the end of the session.

It sounds like the summer vacation couldn’t come soon enough, and that Roberts couldn’t get far enough away from everyone else.  Malta may be too close, at least for the first few weeks.  Clearly, someone wants to go after Roberts in public, and we’ll see if any of the justices themselves address this in public speeches between now and the start of the next session.


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Comment pages: 1 2

Funny, the end of that piece where she asserts that Roberts is, was, and will continue to be a conservative justice.

Like that matters anymore. He just ripped the Constitution apart; any future conservative decisions will merely be pyrrhic victories. I can’t believe that he does not realize the absolute destruction that his decision has wrought upon liberty, individual freedom,and limited federal powers as enshrined in the Constitution. He cannot be that stupid; if it’s apparent to the average joe, he had to have thought through the ramifications of that very broad decision granting the federal government the power to legislate anything and enforce compliance of legislation by assessing a tax for failing to comply.

AZfederalist on July 9, 2012 at 10:16 PM

Having these kind of leaks about it is. That seems to speak to the depth of the anger from the conservative wing of the court, and perhaps to the erosion of comity and commitment to professional courtesy.

Or, perhaps, this is the liberals playing rope-a-dope? Maybe this isn’t coming from the conservatives, but from the liberal side, trying to split everyone? That doesn’t give a pass to Roberts for his horrid decision, but liberals tend to not understand us, that way. Remember all the other leaks that have been coming out across this administration.

GWB on July 10, 2012 at 9:01 AM

Roberts is no Roger B. Taney. Taney may have written the worst decision in the history of the court, but given the politics of the time, he at least voted his principles. The same can’t be said for Roberts. Roberts is no conservative. What he has proved himself to be is a wuss, unqualified to serve on the court. His appointment by Bush and subsequent betrayal of principle should present a message to Romney, should he win (which I doubt) not to worry about appointing a man stricly because he will be confirmed to by the Senate, but rather to appoint a man of conviction. The liberals can’t turn them all down. The last Repbulcan nominee with any principles was Thomas, and although it was a fight, he was confirmed.

georgeofthedesert on July 10, 2012 at 3:50 PM

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