Supreme Court Chief Justices

Conflict Between Presidents And Chief Justices Quite Common Historically

It is well known that President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts do not have a warm relationship, with Roberts chosen by George W. Bush, with Obama voting against his confirmation, and with the two men having totally different ideological views. Despite that, and the annoyance of Roberts over Obama’s condemnation of the Supreme Court for the Citizens United case of 2010, Roberts saved “ObamaCare” in June 2012, legitimizing it for the future, and gaining the anger of Republicans and conservatives. Who can say for sure how the relationship between Obama and Roberts will develop in the second term, and whether Roberts will surprise with more support of the administration than just the health care issue?

But the fact of their antagonism is not new in American history, as it is actually quite common that the Chief Justice is picked by a President of one ideological view, and will often clash with a future President of another party during his tenure on the Court.

The examples of such antagonism, far worse than the Obama-Roberts relationship, follow:

Thomas Jefferson and Chief Justice John Marshall (appointed by John Adams), on the Marbury V Madison case of 1803, dealing with Judicial Review. They were also distant cousins, who personally disliked each other.

Andrew Jackson and Chief Justice John Marshall (appointed by John Adams), on the removal of the Cherokee and other Indian Tribes after the Worcester V. Georgia and other similar cases in the 1830s.

Abraham Lincoln and Chief Justice Roger Taney (appointed by Andrew Jackson), over the Dred Scott V Sanford case in 1857, and the President’s use of war powers during the Civil War years until Taney’s death in 1864.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes (appointed by Herbert Hoover), over Supreme Court decisions during the New Deal years, and specifically FDR’s Court “Packing” Plan in 1937.

Richard Nixon and Chief Justice Earl Warren (appointed by Dwight D. Eisenhower), who Nixon had criticized in earlier years, and were rivals in California politics,and Warren trying to leave office under Lyndon B. Johnson, so Nixon would not replace him, but unable to do so due to controversy over Johnson’s nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas in 1968, leading to rejection, and Warren’s replacement, Warren Burger, being chosen by Nixon in 1969.

Bill Clinton and Chief Justice William Rehnquist (appointed by Ronald Reagan), who had major disagreements on policy, but Rehnquist conducted himself well at the Bill Clinton Impeachment Trial in 1999.

So the antagonism and rivalry of Presidents and Chief Justices is nothing new!