A high-profile conservative leader called Thursday for the impeachment of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. after he provided the crucial fifth vote in the Supreme Court decision heading off President Trump’s goal of including a question on citizenship on the 2020 census.
Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and husband of top Trump White House aide Mercedes Schlapp, said the ruling showed the chief justice was not the conservative-minded jurist he’d been touted to be, noting his previous decision essentially preserving Obamacare.
“I’m for impeaching the chief justice for lying to all of us about his support of the Constitution,” Mr. Schlapp tweeted. “He is responsible for Robertscare and now he is angling for vast numbers of illegal residents to help Dems hold Congress. Enough Deception from GOP judges on the Constitution.”
The comment came minutes after the chief justice wrote the key decision Thursday that blocked the Trump administration from asking about citizenship on the 2020 census. The chief justice said that while such a question is legal in theory, he didn’t believe the justification the administration gave for why it wanted to add the question back in to the 2020 count.
He was joined in his ruling by the court’s four Democratic appointees.
Four other GOP appointees disagreed with the chief justice, who was named to the high court by President George W. Bush in 2005.
His ruling cheered liberal activists who had accused President Trump of trying to scare immigrants by asking about citizenship and seemed resigned to the court’s right-leaning majority to back him up. Conservatives, meanwhile, said Chief Justice Roberts had caved to left-wing complaints.
Mr. Schlapp cast the decision as a betrayal of conservative principles on par with Chief Justice Roberts’ ruling in 2012 upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare.
Mr. Schlapp said if the chief justice were to be impeached, it would give Mr. Trump another chance to fill a Supreme Court seat.
Former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, another conservative ally of the president, said the chief justice doesn’t respect the Constitution.
“Chief Justice Roberts proves once again he’s an activist judge in the tank for the Left,” he tweeted. “Victory in 2020 is more important than ever.”
Only one Supreme Court Justice — Samuel Chase — has ever been impeached, and that came in 1805.
Mr. Schlapp’s suggestion sparked plenty of reaction on social media, though it didn’t appear to pick up traction on Capitol Hill, where such a move would have to take place.
While the census decision upset conservatives, another of Chief Justice Roberts’ rulings Thursday — shooting down a challenge to partisan gerrymandering in the states — was more to their liking.
In that case, he ruled federal judges should butt out of the heavily political process of drawing new legislative districts, saying it’s a political question best left to politicians such as elected general assemblies and governors.
Both rulings sparked debate in legal circles.
Committee for Justice President Curt Levey said Chief Justice Roberts “disappointed conservatives today — to a degree not seen since he saved Obamacare in 2012” with the census ruling.
“Perhaps Roberts thought he was ‘balancing’ the Court by siding with the conservative justices in the political gerrymandering decision issued today while siding with the liberals in this case, or by splitting the baby in the census case by rejecting some of the challengers’ claims and remanding the case to the lower courts,” he said. “But conservatives won’t be fooled by a census decision that effectively gives the president’s critics exactly what they were seeking.”
“The census decision will surely deepen the impression that Roberts is the new Justice Kennedy, rather than the reliable fifth conservative vote that liberals feared and conservatives hoped for,” he said.
That was a reference to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who retired from the court last year after 15 years as the pivotal centrist justice whose vote regularly proved decisive in tough cases.
A number of legal scholars had predicted Chief Justice Roberts would become the new center of the court — though Justice Neil M. Gorsuch has also made a case for that title this year, ruling with the Democratic appointees on a number of criminal justice issues.