John Roberts joins dissent calling out conservative majority for abusing "shadow docket" powers

Roberts for the first time joined an opinion criticizing his conservative colleagues for abusing "emergency" cases

By Matthew Chapman

Published April 6, 2022 12:22PM (EDT)

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story


On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an "emergency" ruling in Louisiana v. American Rivers. The decision temporarily reverses a lower court's order blocking a Trump-era water regulation that makes it easier for states to issue permits to dump pollutants into navigable rivers — at least until the Ninth Circuit decides whether to take up an appeal of that order.

The order marks yet another controversial use by the Republican-appointed justices of what legal experts call the "shadow docket" — using the emergency relief process to summarily overrule lower courts or laws without any public argument or justification for doing so. Normally, the Court will hear oral arguments, deliberate, and issue an opinion on their reasoning, but ever since Republicans took a six-justice majority, the Court has increasingly skipped all of that on more substantive issues.

One unusual thing happened this time, however: Chief Justice John Roberts, a typical member of the conservative side of the bench, joined the dissent from liberal Justice Elena Kagan condemning the court's alleged abuse of the shadow docket — a potential sign he, too, is growing annoyed by his colleagues' use of emergency orders.

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