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“I think it’s bad, long-term, if people identify the rule of law with how individual justices vote.”
January 16, 2007 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Chief Justice John Roberts, decrying “the personalization of judicial politics,” describes his efforts to increase comity on the Supreme Court and to decide more cases unanimously. In Roberts' first term as chief justice, “while a relatively large number of the Court’s decisions” were unanimous, “several important, closely divided cases” were decided by 5-4 votes, with Roberts joining the more conservative justices.
posted by ibmcginty (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
"In an exclusive interview, Chief Justice John Roberts says that if the Supreme Court is to maintain legitimacy, its justices must start acting more like colleagues and less like prima donnas."

So if the decisions are closely divided, the Supreme Court will be marginalized? How do you marginalize a branch of government? Granted, unanimous decisions might be harder to overturn, but it smacks of hubris to think that your decisions are infallible. The dubious interpretation of the commerce clause in Gonzales v. Raich is a shining example.
posted by mullingitover at 6:32 PM on January 16, 2007


Huh.

I assume Roberts is using comity like this: courtesy and considerate behavior toward others.

If so, comity and unanimous decisions have no real correlation, nor should they. One could be completely courteous and still disagree completely, and vote so.

So am I missing something, or is the chief justice really this dense?

Or does "comity" mean "vote my way" to Roberts?

Reading the article, it seems to be the latter.

Lovely.
posted by teece at 6:45 PM on January 16, 2007


Every time I hear 'Roberts' and 'Supreme Court' I think of that movie with Julia Roberts, the one having to do with the Supreme Court.

Gosh there were some good plot elements in that film.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:02 PM on January 16, 2007


If the Republicans win in 2008, he's likely to get his wish. Or closer to it anyway.

Stevens is freaking 87, Ginsberg is 74 with a history of cancer, one or both of them are not going to last 6 more years. Hell, Scalia is in his 70's too.

Or maybe McCain/Romney/Guliani would nominate some more moderate judges than the hard right shills Bush trots out. Maybe.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:04 PM on January 16, 2007


What's more courteous than using your position to install the worst president in our history?

Thomas, Scalia and Kennedy; paragons of justice.
posted by joseppi7 at 7:06 PM on January 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


I love how "we all have to be more nonpartisan" has come to mean "everyone should do the exact same thing I do" nowadays.
posted by clevershark at 7:16 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


...comity...

I just switched from Safari to Firefox yesterday. In Safari, I could have selected the word "comity", right-clicked to get a pop-up menu that includes "Loop up in Dictionary". Or I could press cmd-shift-I and open a new window with a Google search on the selected item.
posted by neuron at 7:43 PM on January 16, 2007


You sure he didn't mean "comedy"?

'Cause I could really see Scalia in a fright wig and a red rubber nose the next time he gives the "vafanculo" gesture to someone in a cathedral.
posted by darkstar at 7:55 PM on January 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't see where the article ever says "comity".
posted by smackfu at 8:50 PM on January 16, 2007


with Roberts joining the more conservative justices

eh?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 8:59 PM on January 16, 2007


During the 2005 term, there were 87 decisions made, 16 of which were per curiam, leaving 71. This article concerns 4 of those. Here they are, in the order presented in the article, if you care to read the reasoning:

Garcetti v. Ceballos
Hudson v. Michigan
Rapanos v. United States
League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry

Oliver Wendell Holmes used to ask his fellow justices to name a principle, and then he'd give a solid argument on both sides of the case using the principle. He thought that people made their decisions based on experience in law, then figured out which principles they had subconsciously used.

It is easy to think of courts deciding purely based on law, or purely based on politics, but anyone who has awareness of the law to have gotten as far as the Supreme Court could surely do neither.

He says he wants more unanimity. That's fine. I don't think we should see it as an evil gesture; he even says that he thinks the chief justice often "sublimate their personal views for the good of the Court."

All of that aside, never underestimate the importance of the voice of history speaking through minority opinons:

Dred Scott v. Sanford, decided 7-2

Plessy v. Ferguson, decided 7-1 - "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law." - Harlan

Lochner v. New York decided 5-4! - "a constitution is not intended to embody a particular economic theory" - Holmes

Schenck v. United States, decided unanimously, but followed by
Abrams v. United States, decided 7-2, with the dissent written by the majority writer (Holmes) of the previous case - "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market"

Anyways, done rambling.
posted by thethirdman at 12:58 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


by "this article", I meant the PFAW one, not the Atlantic one. Sorry.
posted by thethirdman at 1:01 AM on January 17, 2007


"In an exclusive interview, Chief Justice John Roberts says that if the Supreme Court is to maintain legitimacy, its justices must start acting more like colleagues and less like prima donnas."

The f**king George W. Bush tragedy of this, is that this is the legal mind that is leading our nation, for the next 30 some years. As for me, in the face of such, I am ready, now, Lord, if indeed You be.
posted by paulsc at 1:57 AM on January 17, 2007


Ah the bad optics of democracy.

It's important to appear to like each other when you want to double penetrate.
posted by srboisvert at 3:31 AM on January 17, 2007


Chief Justice John Roberts says that if the Supreme Court is to maintain legitimacy, its justices must start acting more like colleagues and less like prima donnas.

Translation: How dare you speak contrary to me and King George?

I think it’s bad, long-term, if people identify the rule of law with how individual justices vote.

Translation: Don't blame me for my rulings.

I've got your comity right here.
posted by eriko at 4:57 AM on January 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


What eriko and joseppi7 said.

1) Pack the court with nuts

2) complain that others don't agree with nuts

3) profit!
posted by nofundy at 6:13 AM on January 17, 2007


Amusingly, his example of a good chief justice: Rehnquist, whom we all know. Bad justice? Harlan Fiske Stone, described as a liberal on Wikipedia.
posted by efbrazil at 3:01 PM on January 17, 2007


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