FedSoc Blog

Chief Justice Roberts Accuses Obama Administration Lawyer of Being Disingenuous


by Publius
Posted November 28, 2012, 9:15 AM

According to Reuters:

U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts publicly dressed down an Obama administration lawyer on Tuesday, demanding that he be upfront about policy changes from one president to another and not hide behind language suggesting something else.

It wasn't the first time some of the nine justices had questioned the consistency of positions taken by the Office of the Solicitor General, which argues cases on the government's behalf. Tuesday's critique accusing the office of effectively camouflaging a new position may be the harshest yet.

Roberts said he objected to the administration's failure in a court filing to acknowledge directly that its secretary of labor had reversed the policy on reimbursements under company medical plans of her predecessor in the Bush administration.

"You cite the prior secretary by name, and then you say, the secretary is now of the (different) view. I found that a little disingenuous," Roberts told Joseph Palmore, an assistant to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.

"It's not the same person," Roberts said during oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Such criticism of the solicitor general's office could prompt greater skepticism among justices about the influence of that office, whose guidance the court frequently seeks even where the government is not a party to a lawsuit.

There was no suggestion that the Obama administration was trying to confront the court on a substantive issue.

Rather, what seemed to irk the chief justice, himself a former deputy solicitor general, was that the administration was not forthright about its new legal approach.

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