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.

By  |  May 22, 2006; 8:30 AM ET
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He also (though light-heartedly) showed support for the "stop snitchin" campaign by telling graduates that those around them were going to be the ones divulging embarassing stories about their past in twenty or so yeras: "Today is the day to decide among yourselves, what happens at Georgetown stays at Georgetown." That's going to be a lot easier as long as you don't talk about those embarassments over the phone.

Posted by: nick | May 22, 2006 09:01 AM

"Stop snitchin" may result in hiding the truth. And the truth of the past may have some relevance to the present and the future. Might "stop snitchin" then become repression? So it should not be "black letter law" that what happens at Georgetown [or Vegas] stays at Georgetown.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | May 23, 2006 06:09 AM

Even though I'm a liberal who opposed putting Roberts on the bench, I'm also a lawyer and I agree wholeheartedly with him on the need for the Court to send clear messages. Not only are 5-4 decisions bad, 4-4-1 are even worse. The more divided the Court, the less we can rely on its decisions. This undermines the rule of law by making it harder to know just what exactly is the law.

Posted by: George | May 24, 2006 02:56 PM

When are we going to take off the blinders and start insisting that all public officials be the product of immaculate conception?

Posted by: Phil S. | May 25, 2006 07:33 AM

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