The road from the US Supreme Court to the Capitol is not far. Only a few steps separate the two opulent buildings in the center of Washington, DC. A short walk through the cold winter air, nothing more.
Still, John Roberts will resort to a chauffeur when he is brought from the seat of the judiciary to the Senate Chamber on the other side of First Street this Tuesday. The limousine is said to guarantee the safety of the presiding judge of the US Supreme Court, but driving behind darkened windows has a positive side effect for the lawyer. For a fleeting moment, she withdraws it from the public eye before the eyes of the world will be on him. Finally, in the coming days and weeks, Roberts will be one of the most spectacular events in American history leadership: the impeachment process against US President Donald Trump.
It's a role that Roberts shouldn't be comfortable in. The Chief Justice is considered someone who prefers to do his work indoors, away from the public and the ubiquitous cameras in the government district of Washington. In this way, the judge managed to remain largely unknown to the general public despite 15 years in one of the most powerful offices in the United States. Just 14 percent of Americans can spontaneously name their name.
This number says very little about its actual influence. Since US President George W. Bush Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005, the lawyer has overlooked a far-reaching conservative reorganization of American law Core law of the civil rights movement, liberalized arms law and weakened the position of unions. Roberts supported each of these judgments. With his self-description as an impartial referee, who only monitors the rules but does not issue new ones, this balance hardly fits together.
"The independent judiciary is something we should all be grateful for"
Nevertheless, the ChiefJustice does not want to be perceived as an ideologist. The court's reputation is important to him, and from his point of view it should not be too biased. That is why in the past, Roberts always allowed himself to vote that deviated from conservative orthodoxy. His voice was crucial when the Supreme Court saved Barack Obama's healthcare reform from collapse eight years ago. He also cashed in on a Trump administration submission last summer that would have added a citizenship question to the US census - a key government concern.
Robbers didn't exactly make himself popular with the president. Already in the election campaign, Trump took his head off the judge, criticized his vote for Obamacare, called him an "absolute catastrophe". Roberts endured the attacks. Only when Trump, meanwhile President, repeatedly attacked the courts when his government had to suffer legal defeats did the Chief Justice speak up: "We have no Obama judges, no Trump judges, no Bush judges and no Clinton judges", announced Roberts. "What we have is an exceptional group of dedicated judges who are doing their best to rule on the cases in hand. The independent judiciary is something we should all be grateful for." For Roberts, these words were like a resounding slap in the face.
Paradoxically, however, Trump has strengthened Robert's power. With the appointment of two judges, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the President moved the Supreme Court further to the right. With this, Roberts, a lawyer from the conservative legal tradition and veteran of the Reagan and Bush governments, is now the ideological center of the court. The chairman now has the decisive voice in controversial questions. Little against him.