Chief Justice: “Keep The Partisan Divide on the Other Side of First Street”

September 22nd, 2014

During remarks at the University of Nebraska, Chief Justice Roberts opined, indirectly at least, on the risk of rancorous politics spilling over from Congress to the Court. Roberts saw a special role for the Chief Justice, in halting this process.

They are not getting along very well these days. It’s a period of real partisan rancor that, I think, impedes their ability to carry out their functions . . . I don’t want it to spill over and affect us. That’s not the way we do business. We are not democrats or republicans. In 9 years i have never seen any political issue like that arise between us . . . . If you see the confirmation process, and you see how somebody as imminently qualified as our newest member, Justice (Elena) Kagan, is confirmed by almost a strict party-line vote. You think, well this must be a political entity, because they’re putting people on or rejecting them on partisan, political lines when that’s just not how it works. So, I’m worried about people having that perception. It’ snot an accurate one . . . . It’s not like it’s always been that way. Justice (Antonin) Scalia, I think, was confirmed unanimously. I think Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg was confirmed unanimously. Neither one of them would have a chance today. And that doesn’t make any sense. That’s bad for the judiciary . . . We’re not very significant on the radar screen. We don’t have a natural constituency that members of Congress are concerned about. It’s why we rely on the bar to represent our interests. We need to keep the partisan divide on the other side of First Street and not let it come over to our sphere.

I suspect the fine line of First Street is often on the Chief’s mind.