Every year, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts produces an annual report to Congress, which detailing the Court’s activities, organizational structure, and any changes in the justices’ ethical rules. This year, however, Roberts sidestepped any discussion of the controversies that have surrounded the Court, likely in an effort to avoid any further controversy.
While the report includes several summarizations of decisions the Court has made this past the year, it notably avoids any commentary on ethics. The report also does not discuss any of the events that have recently led to various reports on the Justices’ ethical duty and obligation to recuse themselves from cases.
In particular, Chief Justice Roberts sidestepped any details on the controversy surrounding Justice Brett Kavanaugh. In October of 2018, Justice Kavanaugh was accused of sexual harassment and assault by professor Christine Blasey Ford. However, the allegations did not lead to the justice’s recusal and the eight Justices on the Court decided to hear the case.
The controversy surrounding Kavanaugh also raised the further question of whether Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should have recused herself from deciding on the case when Ginsburg had made critical comments about then-candidate Trump. However, the report did not address this issue either.
It is not clear why Roberts elected to avoid the numerous ethical controversies that have surrounded the Court. Some speculate that he purposefully omitted any details on the topics as a way to avoid further criticism. Others believe it is possible that the Chief Justice did not want to put his colleagues in a position where they have to give an opinion.
Regardless, it is clear that Chief Justice Roberts opted not to address any of the ethical controversies that have recently surrounded the Court. This decision has been met with criticism from some who argue that the Court should be open and transparent on these matters. However, others view the Chief Justice’s decision as one of discretion, as it is ultimately his decision what does and does not make it into the report.