Chief Justice John Roberts denounced for refusal to investigate federal judge's 'suspicious' retirement

Chief Justice John Roberts denounced for refusal to investigate federal judge's 'suspicious' retirement
Official portrait of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Steve Petteway / Public domain
News & Politics

In what the advocacy group Demand Justice called a "Friday news dump," U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts said he would not direct a federal court to conduct an ethics inquiry into the retirement of Judge Thomas Griffith from the second-highest court in the country.

Demand Justice had called for the investigation into Griffith's decision to step down from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which leaves a seat open for Trump's right-wing appointee, Judge Justin Walker.

As Common Dreams reported earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been reaching out to veteran conservative judges like Griffith to assure them that if they step down now, "they would have a worthy successor."

The group has demanded to know whether McConnell was in touch with Griffith before he decided to retire.

Judge Sri Srinivasan, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, urged Roberts this week to direct another court to conduct the inquiry, a request Roberts rejected on the grounds that there was no "probable cause."

Demand Justice accused Roberts of "covering up Mitch McConnell's court-packing project."

"The highly respected chief judge of the nation's second-highest court thought this matter should be referred for further investigation, and now Roberts is ignoring that recommendation and blocking any further look into McConnell's campaign to pressure federal judges to retire," executive director Brian Fallon said in a statement Friday.

McConnell has openly said that although the country is facing the coronavirus pandemic, his top priority now that the Senate has reconvened is to push through as many of President Donald Trump's judicial nominees as possible.

"After bragging about those efforts as recently as two months ago, McConnell ducked every question this week about what conversations he had," Fallon said. "Judge Srinivasan was right to forward this matter along, and Roberts' decision to turn a blind eye to McConnell's conduct shows how deeply politicized the courts have become."

Earlier this week Demand Justice called on the Senate to halt consideration of Trump's nominee for Griffith's seat—Judge Justin Walker, who was rated "not qualified" by the American Bar Association last year when Trump nominated him for his current seat on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky—until the question of McConnell's contact with Griffith is resolved.

Griffith's retirement is "beyond suspicious," the group said.

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