In an unusual move, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the atmosphere at the State of the Union Address, when President Obama, in the presence of most of the members of the Court, openly criticized the Justices majority for allowing corporate influence in political campaigns to become unregulated, after a century of control of corporate spending since the time of Theodore Roosevelt.
The Chief Justice certainly had the same right before a university audience to speak up, as the President did before a joint session of Congress.
But the fact that the Chief Justice sees no problem with the radical right turn of the Court under his stewardship, by the bare majority of 5-4 when Justice Anthony Kennedy joins the conservative majority, is troubling, as supposedly the conservatives believe in a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The Court is becoming a “political football” by its own actions, although Roberts claims it is the fault of the other branches rather than his.
But the Court has not been keeping to the strict interpretation, and Chief Justice Roberts can be seen as a disappointing leader, who worships Justice Scalia too much, and has been a divisive leader of the Court. Leaving the impression in his hearings in 2005 that he was a moderate centrist turns out to have been a mirage, bordering on dishonesty, although of course no Justice can be held accountable legally for his actions on the Court.
But right now, the Roberts Court can be compared with the early New Deal Court, trying to push America backwards, and creating what may be a real constitutional conflict with the President and Congress in a time of deep recession, much as they did in the Great Depression years.
That is not good for the nation, and the conflict is not bound to dissipate in the near future, but the importance of Barack Obama selecting the best people to replace retiring Justices that may occur in his time in the Presidency cannot be overemphasized!