John Roberts

After weeks of Republicans accusing Democrats of holding accusations against Brett Kavanaugh until pursuing them was politically expedient, Chief Justice John Roberts is looking into charges of judicial misconduct against Kavanaugh, now that doing so can’t endanger his confirmation.

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson forwarded over a dozen substantive complaints against Brett Kavanaugh that were deemed substantive enough that they needed to be investigated outside the circuit court where Kavanaugh sat.

Roberts received these complaints as early as September 20th, but did not take any action on them until after Kavanaugh was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. He only referred them to an investigatory panel Wednesday, according to Fox News’¬†Bret Baier.

People familiar with the complaints say they alleged Kavanaugh was dishonest and lacked judicial temperament, both issues that were central questions posed by his confirmation process and were especially significant in the evaluation of sexual assault claims made against him.

As a Supreme Court Justice, Kavanaugh is no longer subject to the misconduct rules that the claims against him were filed under.

Roberts did not see an urgent need to know if his soon-to-be colleague had a history of misconduct during his confirmation. Roberts routinely hired Kavanaugh’s clerks to work at the Supreme Court, and George W. Bush credited Kavanaugh with helping select Roberts to be Chief Justice.

No Supreme Court justice has ever been confirmed with pending misconduct claims raised by a fellow judge.

Chief Justice John Roberts held allegations against a nominee to Associate Justice that he had personal connection with until after that nominee was confirmed, until the rules governing judicial behavior would no longer apply to that nominee, in order to determine if that nominee had a pattern of misconduct stemming from dishonesty and poor judicial temperament.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States held back an investigation into a jurist who displayed to Congress and the American people that he was aggressive, partisan, belligerent and hostile so that jurist could be confirmed to the Supreme Court with allegations of impropriety against him.

That ought to offend the sensibility of everyone who practices, studies or even passionately cares about law.

Claims of misconduct against judges rarely make it to the Chief Justice. Most are dismissed because they lacked a factual basis. That allegations stemming from Kavanaugh’s partisan behavior and ill temperament would be deemed so substantial that they couldn’t be settled by the court on which Kavanaugh served, is itself a shocking situation.

And then, to have the Chief Justice wait until the existence of an investigation would not be politically damaging is a particularly embarrassing political act for the branch of government committed to being apolitical. For a candidate that repeatedly claimed he was staying three ZIP codes away from politics to brazenly attack the Democratic party and be shielded by the Supreme Court is a political act of the highest order.

It isn’t as though the Supreme Court actually existed outside the political space, but Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation is the final, depressing nail in the coffin of the idea of a court untainted by partisan agendas. The myth of the impartial Supreme Court ends with John Roberts, and let that be the legacy of his tenure as Chief Justice.

The Roberts Court is not a “conservative court”, it is a Republican court.

John Roberts is not a “conservative jurist,” he is a Republican.

And in his decision to withhold an investigation into Brett Kavanaugh until it was advantageous to Republican ambitions, John Roberts has shown that party will always come before duty for the Supreme Court.

If they won’t put their names on a ballot and be elected like other politicians, it’s time to at least start treating them with the same indignity that political institutions deserve. The sacred ceremony afforded the Supreme Court is something it no longer deserves.

And while we’re at it, we might as well pack the court. Let Roberts’ political machination be the opening of the flood gates. Let the Justice who sows the wind reap the whirlwind.

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

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