So, just what do John Roberts' dissenting opinions tell us?
For the last several posts on New York Court Watcher, we've been looking at the Chief Justice's public disagreements with his colleagues. His public complaints about what the majority of his Court decided. What did he reveal about himself? What are the implications of what upset him--of what got his goat? Yes, what's the skinny on Roberts?
["Skinny" isn't part of my everyday vocabulary. But it did seem like an appealing fit.]
Let's recap. But let's first do it by considering what Roberts did not dissent about. What he did not complain about.
He did not complain about the rights of the accused being violated.
--Not about searches without warrants.
--Not about incompetent legal representation.
--Not about excessive and unequal sentences.
Oh, there is an exception. Domestic violence cases.
Roberts did side with those accused of domestic assault.
Roberts did complain about the conviction and the criminal contempt of domestic assailants in 2 cases.
[Yes, I confess, I do find this aberration in Roberts' typically anti-accused stances to be quite curious--indeed, unsettling.]
On a related note, returning to what he did not complain about....
Roberts did not complain about victims of domestic violence being denied restitution.
He did not complain about injured workers being denied compensation.
He did not complain about the mentally disabled being unprotected.
He did not complain about unfairness or irregularities in immigration deportation proceedings.
He did not complain about the violation of consumer rights.
He did not complain about a judge presiding over a case involving a rich and powerful company that spent millions to get him elected--and ruling in that company's favor.
No, Roberts did not complain about any of that. Apparently, none of that upset him too much. In fact, in the cases involving these matters, Roberts wrote dissents arguing against redressing such inequities.
Connect the dots!
And if the implications of that aren't stark enough, then consider the foregoing list together with its converse. Consider it together with what Roberts did complain about in his dissents.
He did complain about lower courts invalidating warrantless searches and seizures and his Court letting those rulings stand.
He did complain about his Court approving the reduction of disproportionate and discriminatory sentences (for crack cocaine as compared to cocaine powder offenses).
He did complain, in 2 separate cases, about his Court approving hearings for immigrants to determine if their lawyers were incompetent.
--In one of those cases, where an immigrant was being deported because of his military convictions, Roberts did complain that the military courts were reconsidering those convictions.
--In the other case, where the immigrant was seeking asylum, Roberts did complain that the immigrant's claim of incompetent counsel was being given full consideration--as the government itself said he was entitled.
He did complain, in 2 separate cases, about his Court approving restitution for victims of domestic violence.
He did complain, in both of those cases, about his Court approving punishment for the domestic assailants.
--In one of those cases, he did complain about the domestic assailant being held in criminal contempt for violating the order of protection.
--In the other case, he did complain about the domestic assailant being convicted for illegally possessing a firearm.
He did complain about his Court siding with a credit card holder to sue in court rather than being forced by the bank into arbitration.
He did complain about his Court disqualifying a judge who decided a case in favor of the coal company that spent $3 million to get him elected.
He did complain about his Court allowing a state agency, which was created to protect the rights of the mentally disabled, to sue state officials to protect those rights.
(For the sake of completeness, he also did complain, in 2 separate cases, about his Court allowing non-states to participate in lawsuits against states in actions brought under the Court's original jurisdiction.)
The vulnerable--whether injured workers, the mentally disabled, immigrants seeking asylum, credit card consumers, victims of a rich and powerful coal company, or victims of domestic violence--he never sided with them in his dissents. He actually always sided against them.
The unpopular--whether immigrants facing deportation or the criminally accused--he didn't side with them either. He always sided against them. Except, that is...
Except for the criminally accused in domestic violence cases. He sided with those accused of domestic assault. And beyond that, he sided against their victims who sought protection or restitution.
(Again, for the sake of completeness: Roberts also argued, in some of his dissents, for immunity for states from suits by non-states.)
Yes, as we've noted countless times, Roberts had his reasons. There are always reasons. Reasons for both sides. Reasons adopted by the majority of his Court and reasons adopted by him. Close cases. Could go either way. But how did Roberts always seem to go?
He never complained that a search or seizure was bad? He never complained that an attorney provided incompetent representation? He never complained that an immigrant was being unfairly treated? He never complained that the victim of domestic violence was being denied adequate protection or restitution that was due? He never complained that a worker was denied just compensation? He never complained that a sentence was unduly harsh or discriminatory
AND, he only complained about the denial of due process for domestic assailants? He only complained about the treatment of a judge who insisted on deciding a case involving the rich and powerful coal company that spent $3 million to get him elected.
Need more be said. What upset him, and what didn't? As always, connect the dots! The portrait of Roberts painted by his own dissents is pretty vivid.
The notion of the Supreme Court as the palladium of freedom, the ultimate guardian of our rights, the protector of the vulnerable and the unpopular, does not at all seem to be one shared by Roberts.
[And as I wish the readers of New York Court Watcher a very Happy Thanksgiving, let me acknowledge, what is likely already evident, that I find little to be happy about, or to be thankful for, in the Chief Justice's record.]