Chief Justice Roberts Addresses Judges’ Safety In Year-End Report

January 2, 2023

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts called for continued support for the safety of judges in his annual report published Saturday.

“The law requires every judge to swear an oath to perform his or her work without fear or favor, but we must support judges by ensuring their safety,” Roberts wrote in a report that came at the end of a controversial year for the U.S. Supreme Court. “A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear.” 

Roberts and other conservative Supreme Court Justices were the target of protests, some at their homes, after the May leak of the Court’s decision in Dobbs v Jackson which, in June, stripped 50 years of constitutional protections for abortion.

In June, before the Court’s ruling on Dobbs, a man with a gun was arrested outside Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s home. The man later told police he wanted to kill Kavanaugh and that he was upset about the leaked decision.

Roberts did not specifically mention the Dobbs decision or abortion in his annual report. However, he did write, “Judicial opinions speak for themselves, and there is no obligation in our free country to agree with them. Indeed, we judges frequently dissent—sometimes strongly—from our colleagues’ opinions, and we explain why in public writings about the cases before us.”

Further, Roberts avoided direct mention of any specific controversy that faced the Court this past year, including the leaked Dobbs decision, or Justice Clarence Thomas’ decision not to recuse himself when former President Trump asked the Court to block the House Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection from gaining access to his White House records—despite his wife, activist Ginni Thomas’ communications leading up to January 6 with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and other actions surrounding January 6. When the Court declined to block release of the documents, Thomas was the only Justice who dissented, siding with Trump.

Instead, as he usually does, Roberts focused on a historical episode in his report. This year, he reflected on the aftermath of the Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v Board of Education, which similarly led to threats against the judiciary—but unlike Dobbs it expanded constitutional rights, rather than rolled them back.

Roberts also thanked members of Congress “who are attending to judicial security needs.”

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