Chief SCOTUS justice focuses on judge safety in year-end report

 January 3, 2023

John Roberts, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, chose to focus on judge safety in his recently-released 2022 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. 

It's a fitting topic considering some of the events of 2022.

Roberts's report

Roberts begins his 9-page year-end report by looking back to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, the famous case that put an end to racial segregation laws for public schools, ruling that such laws are unconstitutional even if the schools are "separate but equal."

Roberts, in his report, focuses on the aftermath of this decision, specifically on how members of the judiciary faced danger from those unhappy with the decision. Roberts used U.S. District Judge Ronald N. Davies, who faced threats of violence for his role in the Brown decision.

Roberts writes:

But Judge Davies was physically threatened for following the law. His wife feared for his safety. The judge was uncowed, and happily so were others who stuck up for the rule of law— not just with regards to the judge, but to even greater threats against the schoolchildren, their families, and leaders like the NAACP’s Daisy Bates. Following a bomb threat on the Sam Peck Hotel where Judge Davies was staying across the street from the courthouse, the judge offered to the proprietor to move elsewhere. Mr. Peck said, “no Judge, you stay right here.”

Roberts's point is clear.

But, he later makes it explicit, writing:

The law requires every judge to swear an oath to perform his or her work without fear or favor, but we must support judges by ensuring their safety. A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. The events of Little Rock teach about the importance of rule by law instead of by mob.


In recent times, as Axios reports, we have been seeing more and more violence directed toward public officials, and this includes members of the judiciary - even members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Roberts didn't explain exactly why he decided to focus on the issue of judge safety in his year-end report. But, the part where he writes - "the importance of rule by law instead of by mob" - makes everything clear.

One of the most notable "rule by mob" events that occurred in 2022 came following the unprecedented leak of the Supreme Court's draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. 

In that draft, the justices of the court overturned the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade, returning the controversial abortion issue back to the people through their state legislators. The justices found the 1973 Roe ruling to be unconstitutional.

In response, the mob targeted conservative members of the court - most notably Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who faced an assassination attempt. Surely, this and similar events are what led to Roberts's decision to focus on judge safety in his year-end report.

One of 2022's biggest unanswered questions

It is: who is responsible for the leak of the court's draft decision?

We still don't have an answer to this question. An investigation, ordered by Roberts, supposedly continues. But, one can't help but wonder if Roberts knows who the leaker is and if he is not revealing the leaker's identity due to concerns similar concerns about judge safety.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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