This morning the Supreme Court heard oral argument in a challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to have the right to admit patients at nearby hospitals. Like many cases involving hot-button issues, the drama inside the courtroom was matched by protests and rallies outside the Supreme Court. But unlike in other high-profile cases this term, remarks at one rally outside the court prompted a sharp rebuke from Chief Justice John Roberts.
At a rally for abortion-rights supporters in front of the Supreme Court this morning, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., turned and gestured toward the court building. He said, “I want to tell you, Gorsuch; I want to tell you, Kavanaugh. You have released the whirlwind. And you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions” upholding the Louisiana law.
In a statement released by the Supreme Court this afternoon, Roberts – without repeating the names of the justices who were the target of Schumer’s wrath – criticized Schumer’s remarks. “Justices know,” Roberts declared, “that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.” Roberts concluded: “All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter.”
Today’s statement was not the first time that Roberts has issued a statement in response to criticism of federal judges. In 2018, after President Donald Trump denounced the federal district judge who had barred the government from denying asylum to immigrants who enter the United States illegally from Mexico as an “Obama judge,” Roberts wrote that the federal judiciary “does not “have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.” Nor was it the first reference to whirlwinds in connection with the court in recent years: During his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh told Democratic senators that they had “sowed the wind” in an effort to block his confirmation, and “I fear that the whole country will reap the whirlwind.”
This post has been corrected to accurately reflect Justice Kavanaugh’s remarks during his confirmation hearing.