Has Chief Justice John Roberts Lost His Clout on SCOTUS?

In the ongoing and always heavily polarized national debate about reproductive rights, the Supreme Court usually has the Last Word.


The Court issued its controversial decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, based, inter alia, on the Court’s interpretation of privacy rights.


The position of Chief Justice on our Supreme Court is, it is fair to say, just as significant, in terms of power dynamics, as the position of Chair of the Federal Reserve. Had it not been for the judicial and political skill of the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, there might be even more segregated public schools than we see today.


Texas legislators’ blatant attempt to nullify Roe, and the pending Mississippi case, are both front and center these days on the SCOTUS docket. The Texas law is a clever but misguided attempt to nullify Roe by bypassing federal courts. 


Yesterday, the Chief Justice wrote, as CNN observed, “a razor-charp opinion…emphasizing that Texas’ abortion law defies Supreme Court precedent and should expose the many state officials who play a key role in the’scheme’ " to avoid federal lawsuits.


And Chief Justice John Roberts’ dissent yesterday shows that he could muster only four votes to support his position that Texas’ infamous S. Bill 8 should be confronted for what it really is: an effort from the Right to bypass the highest Court in the land. 


The Chief Justice is an institutionalist who has tried to slow the rightward momentum on the Supreme Court bench. In yesterday’s SCOTUS action, he was outvoted by the conservative supermajority on the Court (Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh) (https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/11/politics/john-roberts-supreme-court-abortion-texas/index.html).


Amidst all this, we sent our Chief Investigative Reporter, associate solitary reporter Susanna Sherman, to interview Justice Clarence Thomas, the sole Justice on the Court who would have barred abortion providers from suing state officials.


“Susanna,” Thomas said, impolitely, “go back to California where you came from. Bush One put me on this Court to nullify everything that my predecessor, Thurgood Marshall, did here, before I showed up .”


Outraged by Thomas’ rudeness, Sherman forced herself to curtsey and left Thomas’ chambers without a smile.