Chief Justice Roberts Says Putting Fence Around The Supreme Court After Dobbs Leak Was The ‘Hardest’ Decision He Made

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Chief Justice John Roberts said putting a fence around the Supreme Court in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization opinion leak last May was the “hardest decision” he has made during his time leading the Court.

An eight-foot-high fence was erected around the Supreme Court after its Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to Politico, prompting protests outside the Court and justices’ homes as well as an attempt to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Roberts, who made the remarks while accepting an award at the American Law Institute’s (ALI) annual dinner Tuesday night, said no case he has decided compares to that decision, which he felt he had “no choice” but to make. (RELATED: Here Are 7 Major Cases The Supreme Court Has Yet To Decide This Term)

“A man asked, what is the hardest decision I had to make in 18 years? Was it this First Amendment case? Was it that death penalty case? Was it some major separation of powers case?” he said. “None of those. The hardest decision I had to make was whether to erect fences and barricades around the Supreme Court.”

“While the fences were going up, I kept hearing [Chief Justice] Charles Evan Hughes’ remarks at the opening of the Supreme Court building,” Roberts continued. “He said, ‘The republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith.'”

ALI awarded Roberts its Henry Friendly Medal, named after a judge Roberts clerked for from 1979-1980, and considered a mentor. Roberts noted there is much happening outside the Court that would be “deeply disappointing” to Friendly.

“There is much in the legal arena that he would find abhorrent—judge heckled and shouted down at a law school, protesters outside the homes of justices to the extent that Marshall protection is needed 24/7,” he said.

Still, inside the Court Roberts said there is “cause for optimism.”  “Our court consists of nine appointees by four presidents,” he said. “We deal with some of the most controversial issues before the country, yet we maintain collegial relations with each other.”

Without going into specifics, Roberts briefly addressed escalating calls by Democrats to impose a code of ethics on the Supreme Court. These calls follow reports on exchanges between Justice Clarence Thomas and his long-time friend and billionaire Harlan Crow, including vacations they took together and the sale of  Thomas’ mothers’ home to Crow, which legal experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation were incomplete and failed to demonstrate wrongdoing.

“I want to assure people that I’m committed to making certain that we as a court adhere to the highest standards of conduct,” Roberts said. “We are continuing to look at things we can do to give practical effect to that commitment. And I am confident that there are ways to do that consistent with our status as an independent branch of government and the Constitution’s separation of powers.”

Roberts declined Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin’s invitation to testify during a hearing on Supreme Court ethics in April, citing “separation of powers concerns” and noting it is “exceedingly rare” for a chief justice to testify.

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