Published in Crookston Times
Chief Justice John Roberts recently voted with the Court’s liberal members providing a victory to opponents of a 2014 Louisiana law that required doctors offering abortion services to have hospital privileges within 30 miles of their office.
Those challenging the implementation of the Louisiana law argued that it was identical to a Texas law the Supreme Court struck down in 2016. In that ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with the liberal block of the Court finding that the Texas law imposed an obstacle on women seeking access to abortion services.
In 2016, Roberts voted with the conservatives in support of the Texas law. Why did Roberts change his position on this hot-button political issue? Some would suggest that he didn’t change his mind, the High Court set a precedent in 2016 and Roberts now supports the Court’s precedent.
However, there may be more to Roberts’ change of heart than just upholding precedent.
Last fall, after California Federal District Court Judge Jon Tigar put a temporary hold on the Trump administration’s plan to no longer consider asylum applications from immigrants who illegally cross the border, President Donald Trump referred to Tigar as an “Obama judge.”
Chief Justice Roberts shot back, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”
So what is Roberts trying to accomplish with his rebuke of the president and his unlikely vote on abortion?
According to the Alliance for Justice, it is well known that Roberts cares deeply about his own legacy and about the reputation of the Court as an institution, so he wants to avoid the appearance of partisanship. The Court now has five dyed-in-the-wool conservatives – two appointed by President Trump.