Fri, Nov 23, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Trump, chief justice argue about judicial independence in US

AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump and US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday clashed in an extraordinary public dispute over the independence of the US’ judiciary, with Roberts bluntly rebuking the president for denouncing a judge who rejected his migrant asylum policy as an “Obama judge.”

There is no such thing, Roberts said in a strongly worded statement contradicting Trump and defending judicial independence.

The pre-Thanksgiving dustup was the first time that Roberts, the Republican-appointed leader of the federal judiciary, has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has several times blasted federal judges who have ruled against him.

Before now, it has been highly unusual for a president to single out judges for personal criticism. Meanwhile, a chief justice’s challenge to a president’s comments is downright unprecedented in modern times.

It seemed a fight that Trump would relish, but one that Roberts has taken pains to avoid.

However, with Roberts’ court feeling the heat over the president’s appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Roberts and several of his colleagues have gone out of their way to rebut perceptions of the court as a political institution divided between five conservative Republicans and four liberal Democrats.

Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts have themselves spurred charges that the courts are becoming more politicized.

As the justice widely seen as closest to the court’s middle, Roberts could determine the outcome of high-profile cases that split the court.

The new drama began with remarks Trump made on Tuesday, in which he went after a judge who ruled against his migrant asylum order. The president claimed, not for the first time, that the federal appeals court based in San Francisco was biased against him.

Roberts had refused to comment on Trump’s earlier attacks on judges, including him.

However, on Wednesday he spoke up for the independence of the federal judiciary and rejected the notion that judges are loyal to the presidents who appoint them.

“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,” Roberts said.

“The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” he added.

Trump hit back from his resort home in Florida, questioning the independence of federal judges appointed by his predecessor and confirmed by the US Senate. He especially criticized judges on the California-based US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country,” Trump said on Twitter.

If the circuit court’s judges are independent, “why are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned,” he said. “These rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise.”

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