In just-released video, Posner calls chief justice a 'terrible' manager, blasts 'stupid' opinions

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Richard Posner. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The discussion topic was the First Amendment, but Judge Richard Posner went far afield with criticisms of the U.S. Supreme Court and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a newly released video shows.

Posner spoke before a small group of First Amendment advocates last May, but a video of the event wasn’t posted until this week, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Posner, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said Roberts was a “terrible manager” of the federal judiciary according to the article. He also criticized “stupid” decisions by Roberts and a “terrible opinion” by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Posner said Roberts’ poor management meant inadequate training programs for new judges and a five-year lag time for Supreme Court decisions to be printed in the United States Reports. Posner also said the Supreme Court is deciding half the number of cases as it did in the 1960s, even as it employs twice as many law clerks.

Justices “babble incessantly” during oral argument, Posner said, and argument time should be expanded.

Among the decisions Posner criticized were:

• A 2014 Roberts decision in McCullen v. Coakley that struck down a buffer zone around abortion clinics. Roberts was wrong to view sidewalks as hallowed forums for the exchange of ideas, Posner said.

• Roberts’ dissent in the 2015 Obergefell case finding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The dissent shouldn’t have been based on flawed information about sexual practices of long-ago civilizations, Posner said.

• Scalia’s 2008 Heller decision finding the Second Amendment protects the right to keep handguns for protection within the home. The decision was “full of historical rubbish,” Posner said.

• Scalia’s support for a First Amendment right to burn the American flag in the 1989 decision Texas v. Johnson. Scalia called himself an originalist, but there was no reason to think the framers would have viewed flag-burning as deserving of First Amendment protection, Posner said.

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