An Open Letter to Chief Justice Roberts

An Open Letter to Chief Justice Roberts
Official photo of John G. Roberts Jr., chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, taken in 2005. Photo courtesy of The Commons

Dear Chief Justice Roberts,

We the people are experiencing a crisis in confidence with the current Supreme Court.

With its recent decisions, the Supreme Court has disgraced and delegitimized itself. The 6-3 supermajority of activist right-wing justices have swept away longstanding precedents and betrayed core moral and constitutional principles.

We the people don’t see you addressing this crisis.

Let’s start with Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010), decided on the fiction that corporations are “people” (with the rights of “people”) and the deception that huge political donations by the uber-wealthy are “protected free speech.”

Whose interests does this decision serve? The super-rich and powerful, obviously. Certainly not “the people” of this country who are real flesh-and-blood human beings. How can real-life individuals (real people, not fake “people”) compete against corporations?

Citizens United opened the door for unlimited dark money to flow unseen into the coffers of PACs and the pockets of politicians. It gutted provisions for transparency, allowing full-frontal bribery to happen. And you on the Supreme Court did nothing to prevent this travesty. Instead, you gladly encouraged the corruption of our elections.

Again the question must be asked: Whose interests does this decision serve? Not regular people! Only those of the richest and most powerful. This is not “equal justice under the law.” It violates our vaunted “rule of law,” which is supposed to make the United States “exceptional.”

You and your colleagues have aided and abetted the avaricious greed of the rich. Oh yes, they will make a big show of “generosity” by giving ostentatiously to “charities.” Your court turns a blind eye to these gilded rapists.

Next: In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2022), your Supreme Court reversed the constitutional right of a woman to control her own body. As a result of that decision, now a woman’s vital health decisions are no longer between her and her doctor; they are subject to the prejudices of politicians—who themselves are basing their positions on contested interpretations of religious texts!

This is not liberty. It is not religious freedom. It is not freedom of conscience. It is tantamount to the imposition of theocratic law—a direct and obvious violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (the clause that bars the federal government from sponsoring a particular religion).

The inflexible adherence to iffy interpretations by religious sects is what the framers of the Constitution were trying to get away from, not to enforce!

Next: In Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (2023), the Supreme Court gutted the EPA’s authority to enforce clean water laws—laws designed to protect watersheds and estuaries—in the morally and socially corrupt assumption that rich people’s “property rights” trump every other consideration.

Coming at a time of immense environmental peril, we have to ask, who does this decision serve? Certainly not we the people. On the contrary, this decision elevates as all-controlling the naked greed of the richest Americans. It sniffs at the truth that we all are dependent on the earth for our very lives. It refuses to acknowledge the importance of clean water for all of life.

In this way of thinking, nothing else matters—not the environment, not the common good, not future generations. Nothing other than property rights matters.

In Arizona v. Navajo Nation (2023), your Supreme Court ruled that the State of Arizona had no treaty obligation to protect the Navajo people’s water rights, arguing that an 1858 treaty regarding reservation land did not apply to that land’s water! Shame, shame on the Supreme Court!

The Indigenous people cared for and tended the land for 10,000-plus years before the white invaders ever came.

This decision ignores that fact, reinforces white supremacy and continues the 500-year war against the original inhabitants—actions that included mass murders followed by “thanksgivings”; land stealing; the routine breaking of solemn treaty promises; policies of deliberate starvation and forced banishment from ancestral lands; death marches in the dead of winter; reservations little more than open-air concentration camps; laws intended to crush tribal sovereignty; kidnapping Indigenous children and forcing them to attend government-funded, church-run “assimilation” schools; severe punishments at those schools for kids who dared to speak their own languages; forced conversions to Christianity; the non-prosecution of kidnappers who rape and murder Indigenous women; and job discrimination—all done with zero remorse or self-criticism!

So whose interests does this decision serve? Certainly not the dispossessed original inhabitants! Rather, it serves the white nationalist ideology and predatory capitalism that legalized all the atrocities mentioned above—in the name of profit.

An Indigenous commentator observed dryly that your Supreme Court’s decision was not surprising and added, “What can you expect from a colonialist court?”

When push comes to shove, this is a court that almost invariably serves the interests of the dominant class—rich and wealthy white people—at the expense of Indigenous people, Black Americans, other minorities (LGBQ), wage earners, the poor, the marginalized, those in debt (like students!), those who have to pay rent and so on. This Court is promoting class warfare by siding almost always with the rich and powerful.

An embarrassing episode just occurred in Creative LLC v. Elenis (2023). In this case, your Supreme Court ruled against the State of Colorado’s anti-discrimination law, claiming that the law violated the religious freedom of a Christian Web designer. This decision appeared to support “the little guy” (actually, it was a woman), but the decision actually serves the interests of the dominant (white) culture.

Even more embarrassing is that your Court majority bought into the lie that a gay couple had contracted the Web design services of Lorie Smith, that she had refused and that therefore they felt they must sue.

Several problems need to be pointed out: 1) The complaint supposedly occurred before Smith started her Web design business! In addition, 2) the so-called gay “client” named in the suit says that he never asked to work with Smith, 3) that he never filed an anti-discrimination case against her, 4) that he’s not gay, 5) that he has been happily married for 15 years and 6) that he himself is a Web designer and wouldn’t need her services.

This avalanche of facts means the whole case was a fraud and that the case should have been thrown out long ago. It appears that a political agenda was driving the majority opinion. What agenda? The “conservatives” on the Court are leaning into turning religious favoritism into the law of the land. Establishment of religious favoritism is not far from “establishment of religion” by the federal government, which is prohibited by the First Amendment.

Then, in two affirmative action cases, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina (2023), the Supreme Court decreed that racism can no longer be considered as a factor in college admissions.

Who is this decision going to help? Already-privileged white students. Who is it going to harm? Minority students who are already discriminated against by our at times covert and more often open white supremacy.

If the Court’s majority was really concerned about justice in college admissions, it could have considered “legacy admissions,” which are hogged by the children of alumni, meaning wealthy white people’s kids. Legacy admissions go against conservative claims that admissions should be based only on merit and perpetuate the injustice of white privilege.

Furthermore, the Court’s majority failed to explain why affirmative action is verboten in college admissions but is okay for the military academies. These decisions serve old-wealth, rich white people. They are classist and racist. How could supposedly impartial and intelligent “justices” not see this?

Just as disturbing—over the past year, we have learned that Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, promoted the Big Lie of a “stolen election.” She hobnobbed with violent Oath Keepers, and she made phone calls to Republican state lawmakers pressuring them to overturn election results.

Furthermore, over the years the Thomases have received lavish gifts from billionaire Harlan Crow. There are cases in which “Justice” Thomas should have recused himself, but he did not. How did this not outrage you, Chief Justice Roberts?

We are also just now learning that “Justice” Samuel Alito received big gifts from billionaire Paul Singer that were 1) kept hidden when two of Singer’s cases came before the Supreme Court and that 2) could easily have predisposed him to decide in favor of his “friends.” Alito also should have recused himself from those decisions, but he didn’t.

We are asked to believe that money and politics don’t influence the Supreme Court, only high-minded legal and good-faith arguments. We are asked to believe that the Supreme Court can “police itself” in an honorable way. And you, Chief Justice, have the effrontery to tell us that the Supreme Court doesn’t need oversight, that you nine are just fine with the secret gifts and lack of transparency.

But whose interests are served by these attitudes and actions? Certainly not those of we the people. They serve the status quo of keeping power and money closely held by the richest few, and to hell with the rest of the country.

With Supreme Court “justices” getting paid (bribed) in advance for favorable outcomes, are you going to tell we the people that the rich and powerful prevailing almost all the time is an accident? That this is “equal justice for all”?

You have a crisis of legitimacy on your hands. And you don’t even see it.


  • Bayard Taylor

    Bayard Taylor is a resident of the 93675 zip code, a nature lover, the author of two books, a former English teacher and a master of divinity graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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