OPINION: Why won’t Chief Justice Roberts do anything about SCOTUS corruption?

OPINION: Why won't Chief Justice Roberts do anything about SCOTUS corruption?

Maybe Chief Justice John Roberts finally read the paper, or his wife told him that he had no choice but to acknowledge the problems with the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

As usual, however, Roberts gave himself a lot of room in that acknowledgment.

A promise to “do something” is fairly easy to fulfill when you don’t give details as to what that “something” is.

This is especially true when you are part of a group that will have the final say as to whether you did enough.

The Chief Justice made his remarks over what was likely an exquisite dinner at the American Law Institute Tuesday night, USA Today reported:

“I want to assure people that I am committed to making certain we as a court adhere to highest standards of conduct. We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment.”

On Tuesday evening, Chief Justice Roberts formally disqualified himself from The Kennedy Library Foundation’s annual Profiles in Courage Award.

Democrats in Congress are looking at possible legislation setting forth laws requiring transparency and ethical conduct.

Roberts has already tipped his hand regarding any such effort as violating the separation of powers concerns. His “concerns” are legitimate, but they can be overcome.

The Court can simply accept them.

The moment the U.S. Constitution’s Article I branch — Congress, the inherently political branch — passes a law placing restraints on the Article III SCOTUS, politics formally enters the SCOTUS chambers.

Emphasis on formally.

That is Robert’s concern.

But Americans understand that the Court is now almost as political as every other branch.

Those are our concerns.

Congress is well aware of the fact that any law it passes will be challenged on constitutional grounds, and…guess who will decide if the law is Constitutional?

The real disappointment is that Roberts really could implement some serious ethical guidelines. He can draw them up himself as the chief administrator of the Supreme Court.

He could form a committee made up of lower federal judges and perhaps others (e.g., legal scholars and philosophers in ethics) to write a framework of rules that every justice must sign.

Or he can say that the Court “will accept” any legislation from Congress.

Roberts has a lot of tools to address this problem.

But all of that is predicated on whether he wants to fix the problem that he just first addressed on Tuesday night.

A justice who won’t accept an invitation to discuss matters with Congress doesn’t sound like one with a sense of urgency regarding a serious crisis in confidence in the SCOTUS.

Congress has a few tools beyond passing ethics legislation to bind the court. Congress can refuse to fund law clerks and paralegal secretaries. That would be fun, forcing the justices to work a hell of a lot harder than they do now.

But expanding the Court is the big gun, and every single justice understands that the possibility is on the table. Unlike the others, there are no Constitutional prohibitions to that move.

Within our hyperpartisan dynamic, and having endured Trump’s addition of three justices, two of them very questionably, something must be done.

Not one justice wants their ruling diluted.

If the Democrats control all three branches after 2024, the first order of business should be to expand the SCOTUS.

This is precisely why this website has joined with “Demand Justice,” a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that is touring the country, raising awareness of the need to add justices to the Supreme Court.

On one thing, we can be certain.

When Chief Justice Roberts appears at the American Law Institute and gives a mealy-mouthed nothing-burger response to recent explosive revelations, it is going to fall on others to fix this.

And we can.

People on Twitter DEFINITELY noticed.


I can be reached at jasonmiciak@gmail, or @JasonMiciak

Jason Miciak

Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing.