Chief Justice John Roberts said Saturday that he has “complete confidence” in his colleagues’ ability to step away from cases where their personal interests are at stake, and noted that judges should not be swayed by “partisan demands.”
The comment, included in Roberts’ year-end report, comes after lawmakers demanded that two Justices recuse themselves from the high court’s review of President Obama’s health care law aimed at extending coverage to more than 30 million people. Republicans want Justice Elena Kagan off the case because of her work in the Obama administration as solicitor general, whereas Democrats say Justice Clarence Thomas should back away because of his wife’s work with groups that opposed changes to the law.
While not mentioning the upcoming health care ruling, or any case in particular, Roberts’ year-end report dismissed suggestions that Supreme Court Justices are subject to more lax ethical standards than lower federal courts and said each Justice is “deeply committed” to preserving the Court’s role as “an impartial tribunal” governed by law.
The court’s ruling of Obama’s health care law, expected by late June, could have serious political ramifications in the 2012 presidential elections. Both sides know that taking away just one vote could tip the outcome on the nine-justice court.
Republican lawmakers say it’s not fair that Kagan will rule on the case after serving as Obama’s top Supreme Court lawyer until nominated to the high court. They say the Justice Department has not fully revealed her involvement in planning Obama’s response to challenges to the law.