The March 26 New York Times included a letter to the editor by Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth on Chief Justice Roberts’ unfortunate absence in the ongoing high court vacancy fight:
Re “Stern Rebuke for Senators,” by Adam Liptak (Sidebar column, front page, March 22):
Anyone who has viewed oral argument at the Supreme Court knows that hearings often have a certain rhythm to them.
After the associate justices lob rhetorical bombs at the presenting lawyers and one another, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who relishes his role at the center of the bench, chimes in and lays down a proverbial iron dome that deflects the extraneous points and concentrates on a unified understanding of the case.
But Chief Justice Roberts does not seem to relish his larger role as ceremonial head of the third branch, as he maintains a lower public profile and participates in fewer outside events than many, if not most, of his colleagues.
His aloofness is a shame in general, but even more so as the court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia persists. Chief Justice Roberts has chosen not to continue his earlier critique of the confirmation process, nor has he articulated a vision for how his supposedly apolitical branch can rise above the fray at a time when, elsewhere in Washington, disagreement now also means becoming disagreeable.
This is far from the last instance in which partisan entrenchment will imperil the work of the Supreme Court, though. I hope that the chief justice realizes that in these cases he has a duty to his institution and to the American people to speak up and offer responsible solutions.