Chief Justice John Roberts strikes down probe into appellate judge’s retirement: Report

A recent decision by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is shaking up progressives.

The Hill reports that Justice Roberts denied a request last week for an investigation into the recent retirement of an appellate court judge — a retirement that created an important vacancy that President Donald Trump has been able to fill. 

Some background

The judicial misconduct investigation into Judge Thomas B. Griffith’s retirement was requested by D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan, The Hill reported. His request was made at the behest of a progressive group called Demand Justice.

According to The Hill, the group submitted their request following a New York Times article that accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) of “quietly making overtures to sitting Republican-nominated judges who are eligible to retire to urge them to step aside so they can be replaced while the party still holds the Senate and the White House.”

Demand Justice reportedly believes that such a thing happened with Griffith, especially considering that, since Griffith’s retirement announcement, President Trump has nominated Justin Walker — a man being billed as McConnell’s protégé — to fill Griffith’s seat.

That is how the matter made it to the Supreme Court chief justice.

Decision rendered

But Roberts doesn’t exactly see the need for a judicial misconduct inquiry, and he said as much in a letter he wrote in response to Srinivasan’s request.

“Because the Order does not meet the prerequisites for identification of a complaint under Rule 5, the Chief Justice has determined that a transfer of the matter is not appropriate at this juncture of the proceeding,” Roberts wrote.

As Roberts explains in the letter, Rule 5 requires “probable cause to believe that misconduct has occurred or that a disability exists.”

According to Roberts, Srinivasan failed to provide such probable cause; hence, the chief justice dismissed the request.

Unhappy progressives

As expected, Demand Justice is less than pleased with Roberts’ decision. As The Hill reported, the group immediately issued a statement, with executive director Brian Fallon saying:

John Roberts is officially covering up Mitch McConnell’s court-packing project. The highly respected chief judge of the nation’s second-highest court thought this matter should be referred for further investigation, and now Roberts is ignoring that recommendation and blocking any further look into McConnell’s campaign to pressure federal judges to retire.

[…] After bragging about those efforts as recently as two months ago, McConnell ducked every question this week about what conversations he had. Judge Srinivasan was right to forward this matter along, and Roberts’ decision to turn a blind eye to McConnell’s conduct shows how deeply politicized the courts have become.

Unfortunately for Fallon, it looks like the deed is done.

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