Chief justice criticises president’s remark on judges’ politics, Trump unmoved

Updated on Nov 22, 2018 11:03 PM IST

President Trump had lashed out against a federal judge who had stayed his asylum ban, calling him an “Obama judge”, clearly implying he had ruled against the order because he had been appointed by President Barack Obama.

US Chief Justice John Roberts is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s description of a judge who ruled against the administration’s new asylum policy as an “Obama judge.” It’s the first time that the leader of the federal judiciary has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has previously blasted federal judges who ruled against him. Roberts says Wednesday that the U.S. doesn’t have ”Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” He is commenting in a statement released by the Supreme Court after a query by The Associated Press. (File Photo)(AP)
US Chief Justice John Roberts is pushing back against President Donald Trump’s description of a judge who ruled against the administration’s new asylum policy as an “Obama judge.” It’s the first time that the leader of the federal judiciary has offered even a hint of criticism of Trump, who has previously blasted federal judges who ruled against him. Roberts says Wednesday that the U.S. doesn’t have ”Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.” He is commenting in a statement released by the Supreme Court after a query by The Associated Press. (File Photo)(AP)
Hindustan Times, Washington | ByYashwant Raj

US Supreme Court chief justice John Roberts has criticized President Donald Trump for alleging federal judges are influenced by the politics of presidents that appointed them and defended the independence of the judiciary in a rare public rebuke of the president.

“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

Talking to reporters on Wednesday, the president had lashed out against a federal judge of San Francisco, Jon S Tigar, who had stayed his asylum ban. He had called him an “Obama judge”, clearly implying he had ruled against the order because he had been appointed by President Barack Obama.

The chief justice’s rare public rebuke did unsettle the president, who prides himself as a counter-puncher. He sought to push back in a string of Tweets over Wednesday and Thursday. “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.”

But there were no further comments from Roberts.

The chief justice, who was appointed by President George W Bush, a Republican, has been attacked by President Trump before — as a candidate, he had called the chief justice an “absolute disaster”. But Roberts had not responded then and not in subsequent instances of attacks on judges. As a candidate, Trump had questioned the impartiality of a judge who was dealing with lawsuits against now-defunct Trump University; and had suggested he was biased against him because he was of Mexican descent.

The chief justice’s remarks were also being seen in the context of the bitter political fight that took place recently over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s second nominee to the Supreme Court. His confirmation tilts the balance on the nine-member bench in favor of conservatives and Chief Justice Roberts, experts expect, might become the swing vote, a slot earlier occupied by Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement paved the way for Kavanaugh.

President Trump has also railed against the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, to which Tigar belongs and which has reversed many of his administration’s most controversial orders such as the “Muslim travel ban”, and rescinding the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals.Trump suggested the high court that deals with federal appeals pertaining to nine western states and two Pacific Island jurisdictions is biased against his administration and needs to be split up to mitigate its influence.

But the president has been given grief even by judge he has appointed. The White House’s decision to strip a CNN reporter of his credential, for instance, was overturned by Timothy J Kelly, a Washington DC federal judge appointed by Trump.

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