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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
1 Jul 2023

NextImg:Supreme Court Justice John Roberts Says Recent Opinions Contain 'Disturbing' Feature

The Supreme Court’s chief justice said that some justices had been wrongly questioning colleagues, saying he’s disturbed by the development.

“It has become a disturbing feature of some recent opinions to criticize the decisions with which they disagree as going beyond the proper role of the judiciary,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote at the end of his majority opinion striking down President Joe Biden’s student debt relief program.

Six justices concluded that the Biden administration’s program, which canceled debt for tens of millions of borrowers, was not authorized by the federal law that the administration cited as authorizing it. The law lets the education secretary  “waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs.”

Missouri, one of the plaintiffs, brought the case because the plan would cost a nonprofit the state created some $44 million if enacted.

“Today, we have concluded that an instrumentality created by Missouri, governed by Missouri, and answerable to Missouri is indeed part of Missouri; that the words ‘waive or modify’ do not mean ‘completely rewrite’; and that our precedent—old and new—requires that Congress speak clearly before a department secretary can unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy,” Roberts said. “We have employed the traditional tools of judicial decision-making in doing so.”

Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, then took aim at the dissent offered by Justice Elena Kagan, an Obama appointee.

Kagan claimed that the majority was “distorting standing doctrine to create a case fit for judicial resolution” because Missouri was not harmed and that its “‘normal’ statutory interpretation cannot sustain its decision.”

“The statute, read as written, gives the Secretary broad authority to relieve a national emergency’s effect on borrowers’ ability to repay their student loans. The Secretary did no more than use that lawfully delegated authority. So the majority applies a rule specially crafted to kill significant regulatory action, by requiring Congress to delegate not just clearly but also micro-specifically,” she wrote, adding later: “Congress in broadly authorizing loan relief, the Secretary and the President in using that authority to implement the forgiveness plan. The majority instead says that it is theirs to decide.”

Roberts said that Kagan was wrong.

“Congress in broadly authorizing loan relief, the Secretary and the President in using that authority to implement the forgiveness plan. The majority instead says that it is theirs to decide,” he wrote. “The fact that multiple grounds support a result is usually regarded as a strength, not a weakness.”

He also said that “reasonable minds” may disagree with the majority and that the majority did not “mistake this plainly heartfelt disagreement for disparagement.”

Roberts added: “It is important that the public not be misled either. Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution and our country.”

Roberts’s comments come after a series of contentious rulings that largely saw the six justices appointed by Republican presidents form a majority and the three justices appointed by Democrat presidents offer dissents that attacked the majority.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, for instance, dissented from the ruling striking down racially discriminatory admissions policies at U.S. universities by claiming that the court was “subvert[ing]” the protection from the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment.

“Because the Court’s opinion is not grounded in law or fact and contravenes the vision of equality embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment, I dissent,” Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, wrote.

The majority had ruled that policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina were unconstitutionally discriminatory. The schools themselves had admitted they discriminated against applicants who were not African American or Hispanic.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas, a George W. Bush appointee, said that American society has not been, and is not, colorblind but that the U.S. Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment requires disregarding racial distinctions.