Chief Justice Roberts turns down request for probe into federal appeals judge's retirement

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U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has turned down a request to assign a federal appeals court to investigate the circumstances surrounding the retirement of Judge Thomas Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A May 8 letter by Roberts’ legal adviser said the request didn’t meet the standards for a transfer, report the New York Times and Law360.

Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit had asked Roberts to assign another circuit to investigate after receiving a request from Demand Justice, an advocacy group. The group wanted an investigation into whether Griffith was improperly pressured to retire to allow President Donald Trump to fill the seat.

Demand Justice had sought an investigation following a report that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been contacting and encouraging GOP-appointed judges to retire or take senior status, if they are eligible to do so.

Griffith later said in a statement to NPR that he was not pressured to resign. “My decision was driven entirely by personal concerns and involved no discussions with the White House or the Senate,” he said.

Griffith said his wife had been diagnosed with a “debilitating chronic illness” 11 years ago, and he chose to retire because of her health. He informed family and law clerks about the decision in June 2019 but did not make a public announcement until this March.

Srinivasan said in his order seeking a transfer that he had not made any inquiry into Demand Justice’s unverified statements, according to the May 8 letter by Roberts’ legal counselor, Jeffrey Minear.

“Nor does the order reflect a determination of probable cause, or provide sufficient indicia to infer such a finding,” the letter said.

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