Roberts neither hero nor villain of Supreme Court, embodies justice position
Published: Monday, July 2, 2012
Updated: Monday, July 2, 2012 01:07
After the Supreme Court voted last week to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA), along with its individual mandate to purchase healthcare and reject the bulk of Arizona’s immigration laws, constituents and pundits alike went wild, rendering Chief Justice John Roberts the protagonist of a polarized parable of politics.
Despite the criticism from conservatives that the Court has “betrayed” them, Roberts should not be vilified.
Liberals, banking on Justice Anthony Kennedy to be the swing vote in siding with liberal-track-recorded justices to uphold the healthcare law, held up signs in Washington dubbing Roberts “MVP” and have heralded Roberts as a beacon of hope.
Conservatives, on the other hand, have expressed all sorts of disappointment.
While radio talk show host Glenn Beck has designed T-shirts with Roberts’ face emblazoned with the word “coward,” another conservative radio talk show host, Michael Savage, has channeled his anger toward Roberts’ epilepsy medications, convinced of their role in the justice’s decisions.
While Roberts, appointed by former President George W. Bush, could have easily struck down the healthcare bill, upheld the Arizona laws and curried the favor of the right-wing base, that decision would have been contrary to his conservative roots.
The role of the Supreme Court supersedes its members’ party affiliations.
Justices should ideally be independent of party affiliations, and, in the most conservative interpretation of the role, they are appointed solely to uphold the U.S. Constitution. The Court was created by the Constitution to interpret the Constitution and make sure that all laws abide by it — not for justices to impart their political ideals upon the nation.
Many predict the way justices will vote based on party-affiliation of the president they were appointed by. Roberts’ Court had also previously been viewed as politically polarized.
Though most defendants of the ACA argued for it to be passed under the Commerce Clause, rather than the argument that it was a tax, Roberts acted in the scope of his broader duty — to interpret whether the Act was constitutional or not.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts wrote in the majority opinion of the healthcare law.
Though Roberts has been quoted as saying there is a “difference between judicial restraint and judicial abdication,” often taking bold stances on cases that would indicate he interpreted his role as Chief Justice in a broader sense, his stances over the past week have marked what will be remembered as the Roberts Court — one with a keen understanding of the role of the Supreme Court, rather than pandering to politics.