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Analyst, Author Visits Drury to Offer Perspective on Supreme Court


CNN analyst and New Yorker staff writer Jeffery Toobin calls the criticism against Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts “unfair” and “completely baffling.” Toobin, who is the author of two books on the nation’s high court, says despite major decisions in which Roberts – a George W. Bush appointee – sided with the court’s more liberal justices, his track record shows he is typically at odds with Democratic President Barack Obama.

“Other than that [those two cases], through literally hundreds of cases, Roberts has been an extremely articulate and successful proponent of conservative views. So the idea that he’s some sort of a disappointment or traitor to the cause just seems outrageously unfair.”

Roberts has faced harsh criticism from many of the Republican presidential candidates in recent months. Toobin says such criticism is not at all uncommon during a presidential campaign.

"The Supreme Court has always been a major political player in American government and its decisions are extremely important and the court is fair game, the court is very appropriate for politicians and anyone else to criticize or praise the court,” says Toobin.

But he adds that the knock on Roberts is incorrect, saying that for the most part the chief justice has been an opponent of the Obama White House.

Toobin will deliver the inaugural address as part of Drury’s University L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship Wednesday evening inside Clara Thompson Hall. The topic is “Inside the World of the Supreme Court,” which handed down landmark decisions in its latest term that upheld the Affordable Care Act and legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

And despite major victories last term for the Obama Administration and the Democratic Party, Toobin says that conservatives could have better luck on cases this year, including the future of affirmative action and abortion rights. He noted the court’s five Republican and four Democratic appointees.

“When it comes to Obamacare, Chief Justice Roberts –usually very conservative – voted for Democrats. And in the marriage case, Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the Democrat appointees. So it was an unusually good term for the liberals but I think an aberration, Toobin says.

In 2009 Toobin wrote “Nine”, a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the Supreme Court. He said that one of the biggest misconceptions of its justices is that they vote as if they all live in a vacuum.

“The justices are very aware of the political dimensions of their opinions. I think that without exception they act with integrity. They just see the constitution very differently. Another misconception is that the justices could somehow just do law separate from doing politics – the idea that law is a separate part of American life in politics. They’ve always been closely bound up together and it’s really unfair to the the justices to think that they could somehow not operate politically as well as legally.”

Toobin notes that upon conclusion of the court’s term next summer, and just months prior to the choosing of a new president, there will be four justices either near or above 80 years of age.

“Given how closely divided the court his with five Republican court appointees, the next election could be extremely important in terms of the makeup of the court.”

Hear the full conversation with Toobin above.

Toobin will serve as the inaugural guest lecturer as part of Drury’s University L.E. Meador Center for Politics and Citizenship Wednesday evening inside Clara Thompson Hall. The event begins at 7:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The speech is titled “Inside the World of the Supreme Court” and kicks off the Meador Center’s 2015-16 theme “Created Equal: Civil Rights, Liberties & Citizenship.”

Scott joined KSMU in November 2012. He had previously served five years as news director for KETR-FM, the public radio station in Commerce, Texas. A graduate of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Scott enjoys producing human-interest stories, among other pieces that educate and engage the community. When not at work, he’s often taking part in outdoor activities, exploring new areas and restaurants, or staying up-to-date with the latest news and information. Scott was born and raised in Shenandoah, Iowa.