Chief justice addresses ‘contentious events,’ says Supreme Court serves one nation, not one party

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U.S. Supreme Court

Justice John Roberts

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. didn’t refer to Justice Brett Kavanaugh by name when he told an audience in Minneapolis on Tuesday that he wanted to address “contentious events in Washington in recent weeks.” But Roberts did paraphrase Kavanaugh’s Wall Street Journal op-ed when he emphasized that the court differs from the political branches of government.

The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Minneapolis Star Tribune have coverage, noted by How Appealing, while C-Span has video.

“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,” Roberts said. “We serve one nation. And I want to assure all of you that we will continue to do that to the best of our abilities, whether times are calm or contentious.”

Kavanaugh wrote the op-ed after a contentious confirmation hearing where he denied an a sexual assault allegation and complained of “an orchestrated political hit.”

Speaking at the University of Minnesota, Roberts emphasized the Supreme Court’s independence from the political branches. “We do not speak for the people,” he said. “We speak for the Constitution.”

The court has a shared commitment to an exchange of views, and works in a collegial manner, he said.

Roberts’ initial statement was followed by a question-and-answer session with University of Minnesota law professor Robert Stein, who is a former executive director of the ABA, and with students.

Roberts said he believed it was important for the court to reach narrower rather than broader decisions, and to avoid 5-4 splits. “I have to say it’s a project in progress still,” he said.




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