Law & the Courts

Roberts Breaks Silence on Kavanaugh Battle: ‘We Serve One Nation’

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Chief Justice John Roberts broke his silence Tuesday on the partisan battle over Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, emphasizing the importance of maintaining Judicial independence in such starkly divided times.

Addressing a crowd of nearly 3,000 at the University of Minnesota Law School before being interviewed by a professor, Roberts said in light of the “contentious events in Washington in recent weeks” he wanted to “emphasize how the judicial branch is, must be, very different.”

“I have great respect for our public officials; after all, they speak for the people, and that commands a certain degree of humility from those of us in the judicial branch, who do not,” Roberts said. “We do not speak for the people, but we speak for the Constitution.”

Kavanaugh’s elevation to the High Court set off a vicious political confrontation that manifested itself in vocal protests in the halls of the Senate and captivated the political media for weeks on end. Much of the opposition stemmed from Kavanaugh’s nomination ensuring a five-justice conservative majority on the bench — a development liberals have decried as the beginning of the end of a truly politically neutral judiciary.

Roberts, however, sees the latest challenges to the court’s legitimacy in a broader historical context.

“The court has from time to time erred and erred greatly,” he said. “But when it has, it’s been because the court yielded to political pressure.”

The Chief Justice went on to vow that he and his colleagues will maintain their commitment to impartial judgment in the face of growing partisan rancor.

“It’s a small thing, perhaps, but it is a repeated reminder that, as our newest colleague put it, we do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation.”

“And I want to assure all of you that we will continue to do that,” he added.

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