Supreme Court

Will Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts be Impeached?

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Jonathan H. Adler


The Huffington Post reports that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Or) is investigating articles of impeachment for Chief Justice John Roberts in response to the Court’s decision in Citizens United.

“I mean, the Supreme Court has done a tremendous disservice to the United States of America,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “They have done more to undermine our democracy with their Citizens United decision than all of the Republican operatives in the world in this campaign. They’ve opened the floodgates, and personally, I’m investigating articles of impeachment against Justice Roberts for perjuring during his Senate hearings, where he said he wouldn’t be a judicial activist, and he wouldn’t overturn precedents.”

This is absurd.  Even liberal academics who are exceedingly critical of Chief Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court’s alleged turn to the right recognize the silliness of Rep. DeFazio’s charge.

“This is neither well-advised nor plausible,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “Nominees may not perjure themselves, of course, but nothing in Roberts’ testimony along these lines can fairly be characterized as perjury.” . . .

[University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law professor Michael J.] Gerhardt added that Roberts has generally respected precedent. “[I]n this case, it could just be called a question of judgment,” he said. “It appears to me that a judge, and in this case, the chief justice of the United States, has the independence to exercise his judgment.”

There is also an irony to seeking to impeach the Chief Justice for his alleged willingness to overturn precedent when the Roberts Court, thus far, has overturned prior precedents (and statutes) at a lower rate than its predecessors.