Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts continues to receive harsh criticism from Republicans — and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) was the latest to issue a crushing blow, as the Washington Examiner reports.
Kennedy’s remarks follow Roberts’ decision to side with his liberal colleagues in an abortion law case that could have effectively shut down the majority of abortion clinics in the state of Lousiana had the ruling gone the other way.
Roberts, nominated by former President George W. Bush, is generally considered to be part of the high court’s conservative block, but in a string of recent cases, he has been anything but.
Kennedy, a staunchly pro-life lawmaker, recently complained about just this in an interview with Fox News host Martha MacCallum.
“The process bothers me as much as the result,” Kennedy said of the Lousiana case, according to the Examiner. “Four years ago, in a case out of Texas, same statute, same issue, the chief justice voted with the conservatives. Today, he voted with the liberals.”
The senator continued: “He changed his vote. He flip-flopped. He flip-flopped like a banked catfish. And that’s why I say the process worries me as much as the result.”
Indeed, four years ago in a case known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Supreme Court ruled that a Texas anti-abortion law very similar to the one involved in the recent Louisiana case was unconstitutional. Roberts, however, joined the dissent in that case.
As The New York Times noted, Roberts has attempted to explain how he could join the majority in striking down Louisiana’s anti-abortion law but previously argued that a very similar Texas anti-abortion law should be upheld, citing the importance of precedent in deciding cases at the Supreme Court.
Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring with the majority:
I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health. I continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided. The question today, however, is not whether Whole Woman’s Health was right or wrong, but whether to adhere to it in deciding the present case.
“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons,” Roberts continued. “Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”
This explanation, however, was not very convincing in the eyes of Sen. Kennedy, who, according to the Examiner, said, “This is why so many people think that our federal courts, our federal judges, have become nothing but politicians in robes.” He continued:
The chief justice famously says all the time that he is just an umpire — all he does is call balls and strikes. Well, four years ago, he called a ball. Today, same pitch, he called a strike. And I don’t know what else to say, Martha. He just changed his vote with no explanation.
Kennedy certainly has a point here. It almost seems as though when President Donald Trump put two conservatives on the Supreme Court, Roberts transformed into a liberal. Based on some of his recent decisions, it is difficult to argue that the recent criticism directed toward the chief justice is undeserved.