Chief Justice John Roberts defended the legitimacy of the Supreme Court in his first public comments since the end of a controversial term that saw the court eliminating the constitutional right to abortion.
Speaking at a conference in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on Friday, Roberts said it is “entirely appropriate” to criticize SCOTUS rulings, but added that “simply because people disagree with opinions is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court,” according to Bloomberg.
Roberts said it is the court’s job to interpret the Constitution and it cannot be swayed by public opinion.
“If the court doesn’t retain its legitimate function of interpreting the Constitution, I’m not sure who would take up that mantle,” he said. “You don’t want the political branches telling you want the law is. And you don’t want public opinion to be the guide of what the appropriate decision is.”
The publication of a leaked draft opinion in May, which showed that the court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade led to protests outside the court and conservative justices’ homes. At the court, authorities to ramp up security measures, including installing barricades.
Roberts never mentioned the abortion ruling specifically in his remarks, but said it was “gut-wrenching” to drive up and see the barricades.
The new term of the Supreme Court will begin on October 3 with new Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the court. She replaced retired liberal Justice Stephen Breyer which means the 6-3 conservative majority on the court remains unchanged.
It is shaping up to be another consequential term as justices will consider several hot button issues, including affirmative action, voting rights, environmental regulations, immigration and religious liberty.