History Will Remember Chief Justice John “Marshall” Roberts


History may record that the decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act was the legacy case for U.S. Supreme Court Justice John G. Roberts Jr. His position and his actions in this case are exactly what Chief Justice John Marshall would have done if this case came before him.

Roberts has long admired Justice Marshall who was appointed by President John Adams in 1801 and served as the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835.  It was Justice Marshall, in fact, who ended the practice of separate opinions by each justice and initiated the concept of creating one opinion of the Supreme Court.  Marshall also established the court as a neutral arbiter of disputes without the taint of political interference or influence.

In an interview in The Atlantic published in 2007, Roberts made it clear that he thinks the Supreme Court has lost its way since the days of the Marshall Court, losing both its political neutrality and its ability to speak with one voice. “I think the Court is also ripe for a similar refocus on functioning as an institution, because if it doesn’t it’s going to lose its credibility and legitimacy as an institution,” he stated. In the 2007 interview, Roberts also said that he would embrace Marshall’s use of “twistifications” to arrive at a just result that would preserve the institutional legitimacy of the Court.

Last week, that is exactly what Roberts did.

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