John Roberts Just Annoyed Everybody. Is He the New Anthony Kennedy?
When Anthony Kennedy retired from the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, he enjoyed the unique distinction of having been denounced by every major political faction in the country. For conservatives, Kennedy was the activist judge who “invented” a right to gay marriage. For progressives, he was the corporate shill who authored Citizens United. For libertarians, he was guilty of both enabling eminent domain abuse and squashing the rights of local medical marijuana users in favor of a national drug control scheme. At one point or another, it seemed like everybody had cause to hate on Anthony Kennedy.
John Roberts is the new Anthony Kennedy. As the Supreme Court’s 2019-2020 term came to its dramatic close this week, the chief justice not only solidified his role as a swing vote in highly charged cases, but also managed to annoy practically everybody along the way.
Will the religious right ever forgive Roberts for siding with the Court’s Democratic appointees to strike down an anti-abortion law? In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the chief justice dissented when the Court overturned a Texas statute that required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. But in this term’s June Medical Services v. Russo, Roberts did the opposite, concurring in a decision that voided a nearly identical abortion regulation from Louisiana.
“I joined the dissent in Whole Woman’s Health and continue to believe that the case was wrongly decided,” Roberts wrote in a lone concurrence. However, “stare decisis requires us, absent special circumstances, to treat like cases alike,” he continued. “The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access t
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