Could SCOTUS Chief Roberts Comment on Garland Nomination?

The New York Times reports that days before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts commented publicly that nominations to the Court should be kept free of politics. The article goes on to raise an intriguing possibility, noting, “Chief Justice Roberts was speaking in general terms, of course, and he has not addressed Judge Garland’s nomination or the possibility that the Supreme Court may have just eight members for a year or more. Perhaps he should.”

There is no prohibition on such a comment from the Chief Justice, according to a legal expert quoted in the piece.  Moreover, the Times comments, “A statement from Chief Justice Roberts, who was appointed by Mr. Bush, could demonstrate in a concrete way that the court is not, as he put it in Boston, made up of Democrats and Republicans.”

The Garland nomination hangs in limbo as Senate Republicans continue to oppose hearings. (See Gavel Grab.)  A column by E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post took conservatives to task for the delay, while another report in The New York Times noted that anti-Garland forces have yet to coalesce around a single message. Bloomberg Politics noted that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ruled out consideration of the Garland nomination even if Democrats win the presidential election in November.

Meanwhile, a piece in The Washington Post profiled Garland, based on his dissents written while on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Commenting that dissents often provide valuable insight into a judge’s thinking and style, the Post reports that Garland’s dissents have been few and have taken a decidedly measured tone.