John the Sublime
Good for United States Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who told the graduating class at Georgetown Law School yesterday that he and his fellow Justices ought to strive for more consensus in their rulings and fewer 5-4 nail-biters.
"Division should not be artificially suppressed," Roberts told the students (as reported by the New York Times), "but the rule of law benefits from a broader agreement. The broader the agreement among the justiices, the more likely it is a decision on the narrowest possible grounds." That's the sort of statement that probably would get unanimous support in theory from the Chief Justice's colleagues on the Court. In practice, however, well, we'll just have to wait and see. It may be years before Roberts has the sort of magnetic force any Chief Justice needs to herd those eight other cats at the Court.
Are the Chief Justice's remarks another sign from the Court that the Justices are circling the wagons in the face of political pressure from Congress? Sure. Is he channeling his long and rich history at the Court? Yes. Remember, this is a man who clerked for the late Chief Justice William H. Renhnquist and who then argued scores of cases as a government lawyer in the Solicitor General's office. Is he speaking to his colleagues on the bench as well as to the rest of us? No doubt.
Just as he did last fall when he wowed the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing, the Chief Justice is saying all the right things. And, what's more, he gives you the distinct impression that he means it. That sort of candor and authenticity is rare in Washington these days. Rare and welcome.
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