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"We're Glad He's Okay, But We're Appalled"

Roberts hides major health issue from the public for 17 days, would have been longer if not for the Post

Fix the Court is calling on the justices to be more transparent about their health issues in light of the news the Washington Post broke last night wherein the public learned that Chief Justice John Roberts fell down at a tony Maryland club on June 21, hit his head and bled so severely he spent the night in the hospital.

The Supreme Court only confirmed the incident after the Post‘s report came out. In contrast, Roberts’ 2007 seizure was disclosed by the Court hours after it happened.

“The Court is increasingly being drawn into the politics of the day, so anything it does, or doesn’t do, that may erode the public’s trust is concerning,” FTC’s Gabe Roth said. “Given this dynamic, the Chief Justice shouldn’t hide the fact he cracked his head open.”

That the incident took place at a 128-year-old club, billed as a “refuge from the stresses of daily life in the environs of our nation’s capital,” that’s reported to have an $92,000 initiation fee and $9,000 in annual dues, and that it occurred during a pandemic in which most of the region and much of the country has been loath to leave their homes, adds to the intrigue.

What’s more galling is that less than four years ago, Roberts indicated he’d be more up front about his health issues.

With questions swirling about the health of the two major party presidential candidates in the fall of 2016, Tony Mauro at the National Law Journal wrote to the justices asking if they had “current and recent health issues […] that could, in the near- or long-term future, affect your professional work.”

Chief Justice Roberts responded a couple weeks later: “Thank you for your inquiry about my health and the health of my colleagues. […] The Court’s Public Information Office will continue to provide health information when a need to inform the public arises.”

“The ‘need to inform the public’ is more substantial than Roberts pronounces. Regular health disclosures would give us faith that our nation’s top jurists are capable of handling the rigors of their jobs, and they may even help the justices themselves reflect on their abilities to continue in their positions,” Roth added. “I’m glad Roberts is okay, but based on the way this came out, amid the court’s consistent lack of transparency, I’m appalled.”

Of the nine justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor have generally been the most forthcoming about their health, given their cancer and diabetes diagnoses, respectively, though relevant updates are often delayed by days or weeks.

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