Chief Justice John Roberts slammed Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday over comments Schumer made outside of the Supreme Court. According to NBC News, the Supreme Court was in the middle of hearing a case that would challenge a Louisiana law which required doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals if they performed abortions. Addressing the case, the Senate Minority Leader said that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanagh “won’t know what hit them” if they decide to vote for abortion restrictions.
“I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind, and you will pay the price,” Schumer said.
In response, Chief Justice Roberts released a written statement about Schumer’s comments, something unusual for Roberts. The statement read in part that “statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”
He also added that the members of the court will keep doing their jobs regardless of outside opinions.
A spokesperson from Schumer’s camp spoke out about the comments, clarifying some of the Senate Minority Leader’s points. The spokesperson said that Schumer meant to express that Republicans will pay the political price for electing them should they vote to diminish reproductive rights, and that it was a warning of a potential “grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights.”
Also jumping into the fray was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is expected to criticize Schumer during a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. Excerpts from his intended speech have reportedly been released.
“Contrary to what the Democratic leader has tried to claim, he very clearly was not addressing Republican lawmakers or anybody else minority leader of the United States Senate threatened two associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court. Period.”
Following Schumer’s office having sent out an earlier missive clarifying his comments, Schumer’s spokesman — Justin Goodman — then released a second statement regarding Roberts’ rebuke. Goodman slammed Roberts for following the “right wing’s deliberate misinterpretation” of what Schumer had said, also criticizing Roberts for remaining silent while President Trump recently “attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsburg.”
During a rally last Tuesday, Trump called for Sotomayor and Ginsburg to recuse themselves in any cases involving him. He also called the justices various names, saying that Ginsburg was a “faker,” and that Sotomayor was “inappropriate.”
Joyce Vance, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, and Ted Boutrous — a partner with Gibson Dunn — agreed with Schumer’s statement, according to Newsweek. They said that Roberts’ comments go against the very notion of “judicial independence,” and that they may leave a bad taste in the public’s mouth.