WASHINGTON (AP) — With security threats to Supreme Court justices still fresh in his mind, Chief Justice John Roberts on Saturday praised programs that protect judges, saying “we must stand with the judges guaranteeing their safety”.
Roberts, writing in an annual year-end report on the federal judiciary, did not specifically mention the abortion decision, but the case and the reaction to it seemed clear in his mind.
“Judicial opinions speak for themselves and there is no obligation in our free country to agree with them. In fact, we justices frequently, sometimes strongly, disagree with the views of our colleagues, and we explain why in public briefs on the cases before us,” Roberts wrote.
Polls after the abortion decision show that public trust in the court is at record lows. And two of Roberts’s liberal colleagues who dissented in the abortion case, Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, have said the court should be concerned with overturning precedent and appearing political.
After the leak and the threat to Kavanaugh, lawmakers passed a law increasing security protections for judges and their families. Separately, in December, lawmakers passed a law that protects the personal information of federal judges, including their addresses.
Roberts thanked members of Congress “who are addressing judicial security needs.” And he said that programs that protect judges are “essential to operating a court system.”
Writing about judicial security, Roberts told the story of Judge Ronald N. Davies, who in September 1957 ordered the integration of Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. Davies’ decision followed the Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools were unconstitutional and rejected Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus’s attempt to halt school integration.
Davies “was physically threatened for following the law,” but the judge “didn’t flinch,” Roberts said.
“A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. The Little Rock events teach about the importance of the rule of law rather than the mob,” she wrote.
Roberts noted that officials are currently working to replicate the courtroom that Davies presided over in 1957. Roberts said the judge’s bench used by Davies and other courtroom artifacts have been preserved and will be installed in the recreated courtroom. in a federal courthouse in Little Rock “so that these important artifacts will be used to hold court once more.”
Before that happens, however, the judge’s bench will be on display as part of an exhibit at the Supreme Court beginning in the fall and for years to come, he said.
“The exhibit will introduce visitors to how the federal court system works, the history of racial segregation and desegregation in our country, and Thurgood Marshall’s impressive contributions as an advocate,” said Roberts. Marshall, who argued Brown v. Board of Education, became the first black justice on the Supreme Court in 1967.
The justices will hear their first arguments of 2023 on January 9.
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