In a landmark ruling last Friday, the Supreme Court, as set out in the majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, checked the Biden administration’s attempt to forgive at least $430 billion of student loan debt. As part of the ruling, Roberts warned fellow justices against criticizing court decisions they disagree with, which echoes the conservative stance on preserving the judiciary’s integrity.
The court’s ruling dealt a blow to the Biden administration’s expansive student loan forgiveness plan under the HEROES Act. Writing for the majority, Roberts stated succinctly, “The Secretary of Education asserts that the HEROES Act grants him the authority to cancel $430 billion of student loan principal. It does not.”
Chief Justice Roberts: "It has become a disturbing feature of some recent opinions to criticize the decisions with which they disagree as going beyond the proper role of the judiciary" https://t.co/mKQfChRiav
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) July 2, 2023
Roberts’ words echoed the conservative position that executive overreach must be contained. He emphasized that the court’s decision was based on the “traditional tools of judicial decision-making,” reinforcing that even when “reasonable minds may disagree with our analysis,” the court’s decision adheres to precedent and proper legal interpretation.
The cautionary warnings from the Chief Justice came in response to a dissenting opinion by Justice Elena Kagan, who accused the court of overstepping its role. Kagan claimed, “From the first page to the last, today’s opinion departs from the demands of judicial restraint.” Yet, Roberts reaffirmed, “We do not mistake this plainly heartfelt disagreement for disparagement.”
Justice Roberts’ rebuke presents a measured response to the contentious dissent, reflecting a broader conservative sentiment against politicizing the judiciary. It reminds us that the court is not a battleground for ideological disputes but a neutral arbiter applying the letter of the law set out in the Constitution and laws properly enacted by Congress.
Following the court’s ruling, some liberal politicians took to social media to express their disapproval. Democrat presidential candidate Marianne Williamson declared her intention to “expand the court” if elected, hinting at a partisan move to tip the court’s balance in favor of liberal justices.
The court’s ruling also elicited a response from Joe Biden, who immediately announced a plan to bypass the court’s ruling. He proposed a 12-month “on-ramp repayment program” to protect borrowers’ credit scores in the event of missed payments. This move underscores the ongoing contest between unilateral executive overreach and judicial restraint.
On a final note, Roberts emphasized that the public should not be misled by misperceptions about the court’s role and decision. He warned, “Any such misperception would be harmful to this institution and our country,” reflecting the significance of maintaining public trust in the judiciary and its decision-making process.
Roberts’ statement underlines the conservative commitment to preserving the judiciary’s independence from political rhetoric and ensuring its commitment to applying legal principles impartially. By doing so, Roberts effectively treads the line between judicial discretion and public accountability, demonstrating the conservative hallmark that the court’s role is to interpret the law, not make it.