Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts used his year-end review to warn of “inappropriate political influence” over the judicial branch — a clear rebuke of congressional “judicial reform” efforts that include a push for court-packing.
While Roberts didn’t mention President Joe Biden’s commission to study judicial reform or Democrat efforts to look at adding justices to the high court in an effort to nullify the current conservative majority, his words in the annual report address these movements and suggest that the judicial branch needs to remain “separate and co-equal,” as the Constitution demands.
“Decisional independence is essential to due process, promoting impartial decision-making, free from political or other extraneous influence,” Roberts said, according to the New York Post. “The Judiciary’s power to manage its internal affairs insulates courts from inappropriate political influence and is crucial to preserving public trust in its work as a separate and co-equal branch of government.”
Reported ethics violations
In his year-end memo, Roberts also addressed reports from the Wall Street Journal that 131 judges violated ethics rules by hearing cases in which they had a financial interest.
“Let me be crystal clear: the Judiciary takes this matter seriously,” Roberts wrote, according to the Post. “We expect judges to adhere to the highest standards, and those judges violated an ethics rule.”
But Roberts also said that the judiciary was in 99.7% compliance with the laws and that in his estimation, most of the judges who violated the rules did not realize there was a conflict of interest at the time.
Still, he called for more rigorous ethics training to address these issues and prevent violations in the future.
Roberts also addressed complaints of workplace harassment by judges, and said “new protections” are needed to prevent this from happening, according to Fox News.
Important cases pending
For its part, the Supreme Court is considering several important cases during the current session, including whether a pre-viability abortion restriction in Mississippi is constitutional and a challenge to Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate on private businesses.
The court will hear arguments on the vaccine mandate on Jan. 7, The New York Times reports, after the mandate was stayed by a lower court and then the stay was lifted by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
If the mandate is upheld, it could lead to the firing of tens to hundreds of thousands of people who do not want to get vaccinated or comply with weekly testing requirements.
More than 170 Republican lawmakers joined on a brief arguing against the mandate, which they argue is an overreach of power granted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), through which the mandate was issued.