Chief Justice John Roberts

  • October 13, 2017
    Guest Post
    by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Ph.D., president of the American Sociological Association

    *This letter was originally published by the American Sociological Association.

    During oral arguments in the gerrymandering case Gill v. Whitford, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts referred to social science as "sociological gobbledygook." ASA President Eduardo Bonilla-Silva has responded in a letter, the content of which is below.


    Dear Chief Justice John Roberts:

    I write today on behalf of the American Sociological Association, the nation’s largest scholarly professional association of sociologists, to respond to a comment you made during oral arguments on Tuesday, October 3rd for the case of Gill v. Whitford. You said: “It may be simply my educational background, but I can only describe it [social science data] as sociological gobbledygook.” 

  • September 25, 2015

    by Jim Thompson

    In the Los Angeles Times, David Savage argues that Chief Justice John Robert’s voting record has, despite criticism from the right, been decidedly conservative during his time on the Court. He quotes Adam Winkler who says, “Roberts is likely to go down in history as an assertive chief justice who reshaped the election process. His court has voted to strike down nearly every campaign finance law to come before it.”

    Michael K. Lavers at the Washington Blade reports that a transgender woman incarcerated in Maryland has become the first transgender inmate to successfully challenge treatment by prison staff under the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

    In The Washington Post, Catherine Rampell criticizes Republican senators for intentionally obstructing the judicial confirmation process “until there’s (possibly) a Republican in the White House.”

  • June 29, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    At The New York Times, Adam Liptak reports that the Supreme Court has ruled the use of sedative midazolam in executions does not violate the Eighth Amendment.

    Robert Barnes reports for The Washington Post that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that independent commissions may draw electoral district lines.

    Mary L. Bonauto, member of the Board of Advisors of the ACS Boston Lawyer Chapter, explains the decades-long fight for marriage equality in The Boston Globe.

    At The Huffington Post, Geoffrey R. Stone considers the dissenters in the same-sex marriage decision and asserts that “the justices in the majority did precisely what the Constitution expects them to do.”

    Judge Richard Posner discusses at Slate two of the dissents in the Obergefell opinion, arguing that the Chief Justice’s dissent in particular reads as heartless.

    Andrew Koppelman argues at The New Republic that Chief Justice John Roberts’s previous calls for judicial restraint cannot be taken as sincere. 

  • June 25, 2015

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Following today’s Supreme Court opinion in King v. Burwell, ACS President Caroline Fredrickson moderated a briefing about the outcome in the healthcare case featuring Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and Elizabeth G. Taylor, executive director of the National Health Law Program.

    Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the 6-3 majority concluded in part that the intent of Congress mattered a lot and that the Affordable Care Act did not include a provision to destroy the law’s aim to expand health care coverage. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not destroy them,” Roberts wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

    In the call Chemerinsky noted that while the chief justice’s opinion relied on some of the plain language of the ACA, the majority also relied on context and the intent of Congress.  Beyond noting Justice Antonin Scalia’s “sarcastic” dissent in King v. Burwell, Chemerinsky said Scalia failed to advance his long-held view that only the plain language of the law should rule the day.

    “It is Justice Scalia who has been so outspoken in saying, ‘We only look at plain language, we don’t look at things like legislative history.’ But a majority of the Court has never taken that position,” Chemerinsky said. “Just because Justice Scalia says it loudly and often still does not make it a majority approach from the Supreme Court.”

    Overall the high court interprets statutes in context. Rarely has the court interpreted statutes on text alone, Chemerinsky said.

    Taylor agreed, saying that the scheme of the health care reform law was to provide health insurance across the board.

    “I think this is a great day, it’s a relief to have this challenge over with,” Taylor said.

    Taylor, however, added that more work lies ahead to expand healthcare coverage, noting that many states have not expanded Medicaid under the ACA, leaving millions without the ability to receive quality healthcare coverage. 

    Chemerinsky also lauded Roberts and Kennedy for rising above the partisanship that has surrounded the Affordable Care Act since its consideration in Congress and after its enactment in 2010. Chemerinsky, author of The Case Against The Supreme Court, was pleased the chief justice and Kennedy were able today to transcend the partisanship and uphold a law intended to better the lives of millions of Americans.

    Though Chemerinsky cautioned against reading too much into Roberts’ votes to uphold the Affordable Care Act against two major challenges.

    Instead, Chemerinsky said there is something else underlying the chief justice’s work, which could help explain his votes in the cases challenging major provisions of the ACA.

    “I think Chief Justice John Roberts’ inclinations are much more pro-business than pro-states’ rights,” Chemerinsky said. “Both decisions benefit business, the insurance business. I just think he’s less inclined to accept the states’ rights arguments than other conservatives.”

    Audio of the call is available here.

  • June 25, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Adam Winkler, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

    *This piece originally appeared at The Huffington Post

    For proponents of the Affordable Care Act, today's Supreme Court decision upholding federal subsidies on federally created exchanges is cause to celebrate. Once again, the ACA has survived a potentially fatal challenge. The significance of today's decision, however, also extends into the future. Because of how the Supreme Court reasoned in the case, a future president opposed to the ACA (including all of the current crop of GOP contenders) will not be able to reinterpret the law to deny subsidies to low- and middle-income taxpayers in the future.

    One of the arguments rejected by Chief Justice John Roberts' majority decision is that the ACA is ambiguous and that, as a result, the Court should defer to the construction of the relevant administrative agency, here the Internal Revenue Service. (The IRS read the statute to allow subsidies.) Robert said it was the justices' job to read the statute for themselves without deference to the IRS. While the court rejected the administration's argument on this point, Obama's loss bodes well for the long-term viability of the Affordable Care Act.

    If the court had deferred to the IRS construction of the statute, the next president, should he or she be opposed to subsidies, could have pushed the IRS to reconsider the law. The IRS could have determined then that the ACA did not make subsidies available on the federally created exchanges. That would have gutted the law -- even without opponents having to pass anything from Congress.

    Chief Justice Roberts' decision eliminates the possibility. By insisting that the subsidy question was too important for the court to defer to the agency's interpretation, Roberts betrays his usual preference for judicial supremacy and skepticism of the executive branch. Yet in doing so he takes the subsidy question off the table for future presidents. A President Rubio or Bush won't be able to reinterpret the ACA to deny subsidies on the federally created exchanges. The ACA has now been authoritatively and conclusively read by the Supreme Court to allow subsidies.

    Chief Justice Roberts has not only saved Obamacare once again. He's also given the law strong protection against future attack.