US Chief Justice
Speaking publicly for the first time since the court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion, Roberts said criticism of rulings is “entirely appropriate,” but that the court’s role doesn’t change because people disagree with its decisions.
“People can say what they want,” he said late Friday at a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where lawyers and judges gathered to discuss legal developments. But “simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.”
In May, the publication of a leaked draft of a decision by the court’s majority to overturn Roe v. Wade triggered nationwide protests, with some activists marching outside the homes of Roberts and Justice
Roberts, 67, said Friday it was “gut-wrenching” to drive into the Supreme Court and see those barricades.
“The barricades are down and when we take the bench the first Monday in October at 10 a.m, the public will be there to watch us,” he said.
In his brief remarks, the chief justice didn’t make a specific reference to the abortion ruling, which has wreaked political and legal chaos in its wake as state lawmakers have rushed to pass legislation aimed at creating the most rigorous restrictions on abortion or enshrining the right.
“If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle,” he said. “You don’t want the political branches telling you want the law is. And you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is.”
Roberts, who was appointed to his post in 2005 by then-President
While he voted with the other five Republican-appointed justices to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Roberts said he would have left the core abortion right in place. He wrote a separate opinion calling the decision to overturn Roe, which legalized abortion nationwide in 1973, a “serious jolt to the legal system.”
In what was a transformational term for the court, the justices also issued major rulings that expanded gun rights and restricted the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Such forums are normally “anodyne,” McConnell said. “The old fashioned, long-standing view is opinions speak for themselves” and judges don’t talk about them.
(Updates with details of Dobbs vote in 10th paragraph.)
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