Biskupic, “The Chief”

Here’s a new one that is not stricu sensu about religion, though of course it concerns law and religion inasmuch as many of the most controversial areas taken up by the Court involve law and religion questions, whether they are about abortion, disestablishment, free exercise, free speech, the rights of sexual freedom, and many others. Biskupic sets up a tension between promoting a “conservative agenda” and “protect[ing] the Court’s…place in history.” Well, that’s one way to say it. Some of us have been suggesting, albeit from a somewhat different perspective, for some time that the Chief Justice may sense himself to be “conflicted” in this way.

The book is The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts (Basic Books), by the journalist Joan Biskupic.

“John Roberts was named to the Supreme Court in 2005 claiming he would act as a neutral umpire in deciding cases. His critics argue he has been anything but, pointing to his conservative victories on voting rights and campaign finance. Yet he broke from orthodoxy in his decision to preserve Obamacare. How are we to understand the motives of the most powerful judge in the land?

In The Chief, award-winning journalist Joan Biskupic contends that Roberts is torn between two, often divergent, priorities: to carry out a conservative agenda, and to protect the Court’s image and his place in history. Biskupic shows how Roberts’s dual commitments have fostered distrust among his colleagues, with major consequences for the law. Trenchant and authoritative, The Chief reveals the making of a justice and the drama on this nation’s highest court.”