President Donald Trump is railing against federal courts in the Ninth Circuit, describing them as ‘very unfair’ after a federal judge in Northern Calif. blocked Trump’s emergency restrictions on asylum claims. (Nov. 20)
The normally restrained Chief Justice John Roberts took issue on Wednesday with President Donald Trump’s characterization of a federal judge who ruled against his administration as an “Obama judge.”
“We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges,” Roberts said in a statement. “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 issued the statement in response to a request from The Associated Press after Trump’s comments about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar in San Francisco, who on Monday blocked the Trump administration’s effort to keep migrants trying to enter the U.S. from applying for asylum.
The president, who is spending time in Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday, disagreed and posted a response on Twitter Wednesday afternoon detailing his complaints with the court.
“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,” Trump posted on Twitter.
He continued in another post, asking if the 9th Circuit was an “independent judiciary,” why so many border cases were filed in that circuit and why were the “vast number of those cases overturned.”
“Please study the numbers, they are shocking,” the president said. “We need protection and security – these rulings are making our country unsafe! Very dangerous and unwise!”
Tigar’s ruling stated the administration’s new policy of cutting off asylum to immigrants who enter the country illegally appears to run afoul of U.S. law that specifically allows them to do so.
“Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” said Tigar, who was nominated by then-President Barack Obama in 2012.
“This was an Obama judge,” Trump said Tuesday after a reporter asked him about Tigar’s decision.
The statement rejecting Trump’s label was surprising coming from Roberts, a President George W. Bush appointee who has been reluctant to respond to Trump’s bellicose comments about the judiciary.
Roberts has previously been a target of Trump’s criticisms; back in 2016, the then-candidate called the chief justice a “disaster because of his rulings in favor of the Affordable Care Act.
His statement comes as many legal experts have stressed the need for judicial independence in the Trump era. Others have worried the divisive confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh damaged the court’s reputation as being above the political fray.
“I think especially in this time when the rest of the political environment is so divided, every single one of us has an obligation to think about what it is that provides the court with its legitimacy,” Justice Elena Kagan said last month.
Wednesday’s statement was not the first time Roberts has called a president out. In 2013, Roberts wondered why President Barack Obama continued to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act if he supported same-sex marriage.
“I don’t see why he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions,” Roberts said.
In addition to his attack on Tigar, Trump on Tuesday called the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals a “disgrace” and vowed to “put in a major complaint,” although he did not offer specifics.
“Every case that gets filed in the 9th Circuit, we get beaten. And then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court, like the travel ban, and we won,” Trump said, referring to his administration’s struggle to implement restrictions on travel from a group of predominantly Muslim countries.
The appeals court has been a target of Trump’s since that ruling and the president has suggested breaking up the 9th Circuit, which is the largest appeals court in the U.S.
Its jurisdiction includes nine western states, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands – altogether comprising about 20 percent of the nation’s population. And its 29 full-time judges hear more than 12,000 appeals a year — almost twice as many as other appeals courts.
“It just shows everyone how broken and unfair our Court System is when the opposing side in a case (such as DACA) always runs to the 9th Circuit and almost always wins before being reversed by higher courts,” Trump tweeted in January.
Trump has long railed against judges, justices and courts that have issued rulings against him.
In 2016, he questioned the impartiality of a U.S.-born federal judge who ruled against him in a lawsuit against Trump University because of his “Mexican heritage.”
And after the first ruling against his travel ban, Trump denounced the “ridiculous” opinion of “this so-called judge.”
But even one of Trump’s own appointees to the highest court in the land has questioned the criticisms. As he sought confirmation last year, Justice Neil Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., that he found Trump’s attacks on judges “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”
Contributing: Alan Gomez and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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