The lonely chief: How John Roberts lost control of the court

“This was clearly a rough term, but here is the capstone piece of evidence of just how little this is still the Roberts court,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck. “This is a court that is fighting with each other past the chief. The bitterness, the intensity, the hostility is a reflection of the chief’s powerlessness because he can’t control either block.”

“This stands as the most important decision of his tenure as chief justice and he’s not part of it,” American University professor and historian Stephen Wermiel said. “Roberts obviously tried hard to persuade the court I think to not go that far. … I presume he put all his cards on the table and, in the most important case of his tenure, he came up short.”…

The snub Roberts suffered Friday would be humbling for any chief justice given the way in which abortion-related decisions bring a white-hot spotlight to the court. But it’s just the latest in a series of blows Roberts has sustained in recent weeks that have fueled doubts about his ability to manage an increasingly fractious court…

“No one can deny that from 2018 until when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this was the Roberts court in every way that mattered,” Vladeck said. “The consequences of that no longer being true are incalculable but run the gamut from what the court is doing to how justices are behaving to how the institution functions. … When the median vote on the court became Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, it’s a very different court than any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”