Chief Justice Roberts Rebukes Partisan Tactics Over Court Nominee
Clearly the best read of the day–and perhaps the most important, too.
Last month, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. delivered some blunt remarks about the Supreme Court confirmation process. The Senate should ensure that nominees are qualified, he said, and leave politics out of it.
The chief justice spoke 10 days before Justice Antonin Scalia died, and he could not have known how timely and telling his comments would turn out to be. They now amount to a stern, if abstract, rebuke to the Republican senators who refuse to hold hearings on President Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick B. Garland.
Some people are hoping that the chief justice will speak out again, and more directly, addressing the actual nomination of an actual nominee.
It was not long ago that qualified nominees coasted onto the court, Chief Justice Roberts said last month, in a speech at New England Law, a private law school in Boston. In 1986, Justice Scalia was confirmed by a vote of 98 to 0. In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3.
These days, Chief Justice Roberts said, “the process is not functioning very well.”
The last three justices should have sailed through, too, he said. He was referring to Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., appointed by President George W. Bush, and Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, appointed by Mr. Obama. Forty-two senators voted against Justice Alito, 31 against Justice Sotomayor and 37 against Justice Kagan.
“Look at my more recent colleagues, all extremely well qualified for the court,” Chief Justice Roberts said, “and the votes were, I think, strictly on party lines for the last three of them, or close to it, and that doesn’t make any sense. That suggests to me that the process is being used for something other than ensuring the qualifications of the nominees.”