Chief Justice Roberts: Sequestration Hurting Judiciary

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts complained on Saturday that sequestration is unfair to the judicial branch. He pointed out that the judicial branch receives less than 1% of the federal budget, and said:

You get a whole branch of government under the Constitution for relative pennies, and the idea that we have to be swept along because it is good public policy to cut everybody – I am not commenting on that policy at all – but the notion that we should just be swept along with it I think is really unfounded. The cuts hit us particularly hard because we are made up of people. That is what the judicial branch is. It is not like we are the Pentagon where you can slow up a particular procurement program or a lot of the other agencies. When we have sustained cuts that mean people have to be furloughed or worse and that has a more direct impact on the services that we can provide.

Roberts acknowledged that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is attempting to convince congressional appropriators “to get them to go to bat for us . . . I hope we are able to make an effective case for why need a little bit more flexibility than others.”

Roberts then tried to grease the skids, saying, “I just want to say publicly that I think our appropriators in Congress are the best legislators since Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, and you can quote me on that if you’d like.”

Roberts then decided to take a more humble posture, allowing that the SCOTUS judges intervene too often: “We do overdo it. The bench has gotten more and more aggressive.” He said lawyers before the court “feel cheated sometimes,” as justices use questions to “bring out points that we think our colleagues ought to know about,” and debate each other by asking questions of the lawyers. He added, “That is an explanation. It is not meant as an excuse. I do think we have gone too far. It is too much and I think we do need to address it a little bit.”


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