Conservatives Are Really Not Happy With “Swamp-Infected” Supreme Court Justice John Roberts

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Zuma

The coronavirus is a rapidly developing news story, so some of the content in this article might be out of date. Check out our most recent coverage of the coronavirus crisis, and subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a Nevada church’s attempt to circumvent state limits on attendees at religious services during the coronavirus pandemic. Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberal members in ruling against the church, which had said it was unfair for houses of worship to be limited to 50 attendees, while casinos in the state could still operate at 50 percent occupancy. 

Roberts’ deciding vote sent right-wing Twitter, and at least two US senators, into a frenzy.

“John Roberts has abandoned his oath,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted early Saturday morning. “But, on the upside, maybe Nevada churches should set up craps tables? Then they could open?” Cruz’s post included a screenshot of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s one-paragraph dissenting opinion, which said, “In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion.” 

Roberts, a George W. Bush appointee, is no one’s idea of a #Resistance hero, but he has repeatedly angered conservatives by siding with the court’s liberal minority in certain high-profile cases. In 2012, he famously saved the Affordable Care Act by declaring it a tax. Last month, he joined a 5-4 vote to protect abortion rights (at least for now). And he recently wrote the court’s opinion blocking President Donald Trump from immediately ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who said after the abortion case that Roberts was “apparently more concerned with liberal opinion than with doing the right thing,” had more sharp words for the conservative jurist following the Nevada church decision:

On a more conservative court, Roberts has increasingly become the swing justice, making him an easy target for right-wing purists. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), who is in the midst of a tight Senate race in Georgia with Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, called the Nevada ruling “another horribly disappointing” Supreme Court decision. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and prime candidate for weirdest tweeter of the decade, had perhaps the strongest condemnation of Roberts on Saturday:

Trump himself was relatively muted about the decision on Saturday morning, and didn’t call out Roberts by name—even though he has not been reluctant to criticize the justice directly in the past. In 2012, he sent off a flurry of not-so-nice tweets in the aftermath of the Obamacare ruling:

Since taking office, Trump has railed against the “Obama judges” who declare his policies unconstitutional, sparking a rare rebuke from Roberts and—inevitably—more tough talk from Trump. The president has kept the court high in Republican voters’ minds as a key issue for 2020, tweeting after the recent DACA decision about these “horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court,” adding that conservatives “need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else.” 

On Saturday, in response to the Nevada ruling, he had a much more succinct message: “Win in 2020!!!”

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate