LONSBERRY: Roberts Is Wrong About Judicial Bias

John Roberts is wrong about bias in the federal judiciary.

And his jab at Donald Trump on the subject betrays his own bias and, sadly, incompetence.

Because as chief justice of the United States, and the man in charge of the federal judiciary, he is the only one who can challenge and change the partisan bias that runs from the bottom to the top of his institution and which has severely eroded public trust in it.

The issue arose when a Trump executive order involving the processing of aliens seeking amnesty was overturned by a federal judge.

Trump pointed out, accurately, that the judge who issued the order was appointed by Barack Obama.

Roberts responded that there was no such thing as an “Obama judge” or a “Clinton judge” or a “Bush judge,” but that all federal judges worked hard to offer impartial and fair rulings without regard to their own partisan affiliation or political philosophy.

That’s preposterous.

It is false on its face.

And when the guy in charge of the system pretends that there is no problem, then there is no chance of that problem being solved.

In fact, the federal judiciary is rife with politics. And people across the country know it.

When Trump says that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco is liberal, he is, of course, right. The same is true of the 2nd Circuit in New York City and the 10th Circuit in Denver. Likewise, the 8th Circuit in St. Louis is significantly more conservative, and progressive observers would add two or three more circuit courts to that list.

These aren’t partisan distortions, they are judicial realities.

There is a reason partisan activists court shop – they know that certain courts are more or less likely to support their political philosophy. Progressives go to liberal courts and conservatives go to conservative courts.

If John Roberts denies that, he is a liar.

If John Roberts is unaware of that, he is an idiot.

Even the court upon which he personally sits – the United States Supreme Court – is riven by a 5-4 political divide. If he doesn’t believe in the existence of Obama judges, he should walk down the hall and meet some of them. The future of large issues facing our nation hang not on objective blind justice, but on the politics and appointers of the very judges with whom he works.

The recent fight over the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh was entirely about the political nature of the Supreme Court. One side opposed him because of his politics and the other side supported him because of his politics. Had the federal judiciary been the idyll John Roberts describes, Kavanaugh would have been happily supported by all, given his truly stellar qualifications. 

But there was an understanding across the country and throughout the Senate that Kavanaugh – like every justice before him – had a letter after his name, in his case an “R,” that would impact the partisan breakdown of the court and its rulings.

How could the chief justice pretend otherwise?

Because his desire to get in a dig against Trump is greater than his desire to do his job.

John Roberts – forever to be remembered as the chief justice who goofed up a presidential oath – should have seen in the war over Kavanaugh an insight into the reality of judicial distrust in America. With the reality of court shopping and obvious efforts by federal district judges to impede the policies of presidents with whom they disagree, he should be preaching the gospel of impartiality.

Not by lying and saying that it exists, but by using his power and prominence to train and cajole federal judges away from their prejudices and toward their duties.

The press – progressive and conservative – has raised the issue. The Congress – both sides and both parties – has raised the issue. Presidents – to include Trump and Obama – have raised the issue.

And the problem has only gotten worse. The judges have ignored the upset.

The judges have refused to do their duty with honor. 

And now the chief justice – the officer whose constitutional responsibility is to lead the courts – has given them a pass, by ratifying their ignoble behavior as honorable.

In so doing, he has joined them in their partisanship and failure.

And thereby cheated the Republic of his honest services.

Which, if the Democrats are looking for somebody to impeach, is a high crime or misdemeanor. 

US-JUSTICE-COURTChief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts sits for an official photo with other members of the US Supreme Court in the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, June 1, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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