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

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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!!!”

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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