Chief Justice John Roberts stressed the importance of the judiciary’s institutional independence Friday in an annual report that comes as the Supreme Court is considering some of the most important issues of the day, and critics are seeking to dilute the court’s conservative majority.
Roberts did not directly address the term’s explosive docket that includes cases on the future of Roe v. Wade, the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates and the expansion of gun rights, but he emphasized the need to insulate the courts from what he called “inappropriate political influence.”
“Decisional independence is essential to due process, promoting impartial decision-making, free from political or other extraneous influence,” he wrote.
Besides his duties on the high court, Roberts presides over the Judicial Conference, a body responsible for making policy regarding the administration of the courts and releases a report each New Year’s Eve on the state of the judiciary.
Friday’s report was ostensibly aimed at matters closely related to the court’s internal administration, but it was carefully crafted to make clear that the court’s ability to manage its own affairs is vital, Roberts said, to “safeguarding and fortifying the independence of the Branch.”
The justices are currently on their winter recess, but they will return in one week to hear expedited oral arguments concerning the Biden administration’s attempts to impose requirements to combat the resurgence of Covid-19. Behind closed doors, the justices are also mulling a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade and another case that could expand the reach of Second Amendment protections.
Roberts did not mention a recent study, commissioned by President Joe Biden, to explore court reform, or proposals from progressives to add more members to the bench and impose term limits, but he said the political branches should stay out of the court’s internal workings.