Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Chief Justice on the President's State of the Union Address

Jason Mazzone

Chief Justice Roberts has issued his 2010 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary. Among the topics the Chief Justice addresses is the "persistent problem . . . in the process of filling judicial vacancies," a problem that has "created acute difficulties for some judicial districts." The Chief deems the cause of the problem to be that "each political party has found it easy to turn on a dime from decrying to defending the blocking of judicial nominations, depending on their [sic] changing political fortunes." He calls on the political branches to find "a long-term solution" to the vacancy problem.

Within this discussion of judicial confirmations is a sentence that can plausibly be read as Chief Justice Roberts's response to President Obama's criticism, during his 2010 State of the Union speech, of the Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC. Read carefully the final sentence of the following paragraph:
The Constitution, as one of its many checks and balances, entrusted the selection of new judges to the political branches. The judiciary relies on the President’s nominations and the Senate’s confirmation process to fill judicial vacancies; we do not comment on the merits of individual nominees. That is as it should be. The judiciary must respect the constitutional prerogatives of the President and Congress in the same way that the judiciary expects respect for its constitutional role.


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