For Roberts, Precedent and Perception Rule
The chief justice joined the left wing in blocking an abortion law, reversing his own previous position.
Chief Justice John Roberts is quite sensitive about the public perception of not just the Supreme Court but also lower courts. Ironically, his preference for prioritizing precedent or perception concerns when deciding cases leads him to make some activist rulings. Such was the case in 2012 when he single-handedly rewrote ObamaCare in order to save it. The same considerations seem to have guided Roberts when he joined the Court’s left wing in yesterday’s ruling temporarily blocking a Louisiana abortion law.
His own precedent makes that plain. Fox News reports, “The Louisiana law is virtually identical to a Texas measure the justices struck down three years ago by a 5-3 vote, shortly after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Roberts dissented in that case, when he was not the deciding vote, and sided with the conservative minority that wanted to uphold the anti-abortion law — making his decision on Thursday a significant reversal.”
That report continues, “The justices decided in a 5-4 vote on Thursday, with Roberts as the swing vote, that they will not allow Louisiana to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The Supreme Court is set to issue a final ruling on the merits of the case later, and Thursday’s majority ruling did not spell out a rationale.”
While Democrat-dominated states like New York are passing laws that greatly liberalize abortion options and Senate Democrats are blocking Republican efforts to protect the almost-born, many conservative states have spent recent decades passing various levels of restriction in part to test the legal limits of Roe v. Wade. In other words, what exactly constitutes an “undue burden” on the “constitutional right” to an abortion?
Justice Brett Kavanaugh took the time to write a dissent, even though this technically wasn’t a full ruling. “The parties have offered, in essence, competing predictions” about the law’s real-world consequences, Kavanaugh wrote. “If we denied the stay [and allowed the law to be implemented], that question could be readily and quickly answered without disturbing the status quo or causing harm to the parties or the affected women, and without this court’s further involvement.”
Naturally, leftists are still losing their minds over Kavanaugh’s very presence on the Court, never mind his opinions. And that fact has only exacerbated Roberts’s penchant for opposing whatever he deems is the political sentiment in need of being checked.
Remember, it was after Kavanaugh’s confirmation despite outlandish Democrat mudslinging that Roberts denounced politicizing the courts — by President Donald Trump. Roberts said nothing about the appalling treatment Kavanaugh endured, but he took the unprecedented step of rebuking Trump for rightly calling someone “an Obama judge.” Upholding precedent has its merits, and Roberts arguably was justified in preventing the Fifth Circuit Court from sidestepping previous Supreme Court precedent. Yet Roberts’s attitude regarding perception has already caused him to sometimes become the very kind of partisan judge he says doesn’t exist.