Geof Stone on Conservative Criticism of Chief Justice Roberts
In an op-ed published seven years ago, shortly after President George W. Bush nominated John Roberts to serve on the Supreme Court, I chided my fellow liberals for threatening to oppose Roberts. Although Bush had promised to appoint Supreme Court justices like those he most admired -- Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas -- I argued that, "in nominating John Roberts, Bush has broken that promise, to the great good fortune of the American people."
I conceded that Roberts would not have been "my choice for the Court." He was, after all, "a dyed-in-the-wool conservative" whose confirmation would clearly "move the Court even further to the 'right.'" But I opined that everything about Roberts suggests "a principled, pragmatic justice who will act cautiously and with a healthy respect for precedent." I predicted that he will decide cases "in an open-minded, rigorous, intellectually honest manner, rather than as an ideologue whose constitutional principles derive more from fiction and faith than from legal reason."
For the past seven years I have pretty much eaten those words. Almost without exception, Chief Justice Roberts has adhered to a rigid and generally extreme conservative line. Moreover, in so doing, he has often acted in complete disregard of precedent and of the much-celebrated conservative principle of judicial restraint. Examples include the Court's decisions on such diverse issues as late-term (so-called "partial birth") abortion, the death penalty, campaign finance, affirmative action, gun control, and the rights of Guantanamo detainees. Like Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito, Roberts has consistently interpreted the Constitution in ways that mimic conservative political ideology. He has, in short, been a great disappointment -- at least to me.