Roberts, in a rare statement outside of any ruling, rebuked President Donald Trump’s assertions that the Ninth Circuit of Appeals based in San Francisco was biased against him because a judge ruled against his migrant asylum order.
Roberts had refused to comment on Trump’s earlier attacks on judges, including the chief justice himself. But on Wednesday, after an inquiry by The Associated Press, 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,” Roberts said in a statement responding to comments Trump made earlier in the week criticizing the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”
It is unprecedented in the modern era for a sitting Chief Justice on America’s high court to speak publicly regarding a sitting President outside of any relevant or pertinent rulings.
Later in the day, Trump hit back at Roberts.
“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,” the president tweeted.
If the 9th Circuit judges are independent, he said, “why are so many opposing view (on Border and Safety) cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. … these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”
Many political observers have called Trump’s behavior “un-American” and reminiscent of a leader that seeks authoritarian power.