President Trump lashed out at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, slamming the court for striking down one of his administration's policies and claiming that an "Obama judge" issued the decision. The next day, the Supreme Court's Chief Justice John Roberts responded to Trump's "Obama judge" comment and, in doing so, offered a rare public rebuke of the president.
"We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges," Roberts said in a statement to the Associated Press. "What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
Trump made his comments after the 9th Circuit once again ruled against him on a high-profile immigration policy. The administration had announced plans to prohibit certain immigrants from making asylum claims, but 9th Circuit judge Jon S. Tigar ruled on Monday that Trump "may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," and put a temporary restraining order on the policy.
"It's a disgrace when every case gets filed in the 9th Circuit," Trump said the next day. "Every case, no matter where it is, they file is practically, for all intents and purposes, they file it in what's called the 9th Circuit. This was an Obama judge. I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen like this anymore."
The president also claimed incorrectly that it's "not law" for progressives to seek relief from the 9th Circuit. In fact, both liberal and conservative activists often file lawsuits in courts that, in their estimation, are more sympathetic to their political ideologies. This practice is so common, in fact, that there's a name for it: "Judge-shopping." Democrats and progressives will often appeal to the 9th Circuit, which is perceived to lean left, while conservatives and Republicans frequently opt for the more conservative 5h Circuit Court of Appeals.
The 9th Circuit has indeed halted or struck down several Trump administration policies, many related to immigration. Prior to Monday's ruling, the left-leaning court blocked three different versions of the administration's travel ban, as well as its attempts to defund "sanctuary cities" and end Barack Obama's DACA program for young immigrants.
In 2017, Trump claimed that the Supreme Court overturns "close to 80%" of the 9th Circuit's rulings. According to SCOTUSBlog, the high court did indeed reverse 79 percent of the 9th Circuit's decisions that it heard between 2010 and 2015. However, it bears mentioning that the Supreme Court overturns 70 percent of all appeals it hears, regardless of which court last ruled on them. Moreover, the 9th Circuit doesn't have the highest overturn rate for appeals courts; that would be the 6th Circuit, which is overturned by the Supreme Court 87 percent of the time. The 11th Circuit's rulings, too, are reversed by the Supreme Court more often (85 percent of the time) than those from the 9th Circuit.
It's rare for Supreme Court justices to publicly address comments made by candidates or elected officials. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took heat in 2016 for calling Trump a "faker" with "no consistency about him." This prompted Trump to declare that Ginsburg's "mind is shot" and demand that she resign. She didn't.