Why Roberts is afraid to rule
“The Supreme Court is now too frightened of public outcry to decide anything,” said Dahlia Lithwick. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from the court’s decision this week to punt on two important partisan-gerrymandering cases involving Maryland and Wisconsin. During oral arguments in the Wisconsin case back in October, Chief Justice John Roberts openly fretted that he didn’t want the court to get involved in gerrymandering cases, because “we will have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win.” The perception that the justices have partisan bias, he moaned, will “cause very serious harm to the status and integrity of the decisions of this court.” Sure enough, the court has refused to rule on the two gerrymandering cases on technical, “standing” grounds. Clearly, Roberts is so afraid of public perception that he’d rather not decide whether it’s constitutional to create absurdly shaped election districts for blatantly partisan reasons. With the Mueller investigation and President Trump on a collision course, perhaps it is rational for the court “to save its powder” for the coming constitutional crisis. But it tells you a lot about the state of our country that the Supreme Court is so rattled it would rather not rule.