The recent spat between President Donald Trump and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts was, if anything, a revealing moment for the president.
For starters, it revealed that Trump sees the rulings of certain judges, appointed by presidents that were not him, as illegitimate. This belief is something we cannot allow to go unchallenged, for federal judges serve on the benches they are appointed to for a lifetime appointment. Their legitimacy doesn’t cease to exist just because they don’t have an association with the current president.
But Trump’s back-and-forth with the chief justice, which was detailed in a report made earlier today by the Inquisitr, revealed something even more troubling if you can believe that: Trump does not understand basic tenets of legal theory.
In the tweets he made in response to Justice John Roberts’ comments from Wednesday, Trump made clear that he believed the reason why the Ninth Circuit Court overturned so many of his policies was because litigants “shopped” their cases to agreeable judges there.
“It would be great if the 9th Circuit was indeed an ‘independent judiciary,’ but if it is why [there] are so many opposing view…cases filed there, and why are a vast number of those cases overturned,” Trump wrote over a series of two tweets on Wednesday, per reporting from CBS News.
— The Hill (@thehill) November 22, 2018
This line in particular from the president indicates that he has no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to how the federal court system works.
According to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School, a court may only hear a case before it if it has jurisdiction to do so — that is, one of the conditions necessary to rule on a case is that the aggrieved party bringing it forward has to be within the geographical boundaries that the court serves.
A case that appears before a circuit court cannot come from an aggrieved party that exists outside of its borders. In the case of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, that includes the states of Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, according to Justia.
If a litigant from outside those states wants to bring their case to a federal court, arguing against the Trump administration’s policies, they cannot do so within the Ninth Circuit — they must seek relief in whichever circuit court they belong to.
It is true that the Ninth Circuit Court does overturn a good number of the cases that sit before it. But it’s also not the circuit court that does so the most, according to PolitiFact — in fact, the Sixth Circuit (which serves Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee) and the 11th Circuit (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) overturn a higher rate of cases that reaches them, and those jurisdictions are hardly liberal territories.
Trump demonstrates his ignorance when he spouts off about the Ninth Circuit Court overturning much of his agenda. Litigants aren’t allowed to shop around for favorable courts, and even if they were, the supposedly liberal Ninth Circuit wouldn’t statistically be the best place to do so. In short, Trump’s words are misleading, demonstrative of his attempts to conflate the issue with straw men arguments.