US Chief Justice John Roberts defended the independence of the federal judiciary on Wednesday a day after President Donald Trump called a judge who ruled against his policy barring asylum for certain immigrants an ‘Obama judge’, but Trump rejected the rebuke, chided Roberts and launched a new round of attacks, report agencies.
The remarks by Roberts represented his first public response to Trump over the Republican president’s persistent criticism of the federal courts. Opponents of Trump have called his criticism of judges an attack on the rule of law in the United States.
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by Republican former President George W Bush, said in a statement released by the Supreme Court in response to a news media inquiry.
“What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts added in the statement, which did not mention Trump by name.
In a Twitter post, Trump wrote in response: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”
It is unusual for a US chief justice, who presides over the nine-member US Supreme Court, to issue such a statement in response to a president. The US Constitution established the federal judiciary as a co-equal branch of government with the executive and legislative branches as part of a system of checks and balances on power. Presidents nominate federal judges and the Senate confirms them.
Ilya Somin, a law professor at George Mason University in Virginia, said Roberts “is sending up a signal that Trump has gone beyond the pale of responsible political discourse.”
“For a long time the chief justice didn’t respond to it. I suspect at some point Roberts decided enough was enough and he had to say something,” Somin added.