As Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, it is the role of Justice John Roberts to preside over a Senate impeachment hearing.
This could present a significant challenge for Roberts in that while he has already gone overboard to prove he is not partisan, this could be his most challenging task yet. Tragically, no matter how the trial plays out, Roberts is going to take the heat from one side or the other.
Just like an umpire
Justice Roberts, even though he is nominally conservative, is about as far on the other end of the spectrum from late Justice Antonin Scalia as one can be while still being a conservative.
Scalia believed the Constitution was set in stone, but many of Roberts’ decisions show that he believes there is some room to bend there. When he was being confirmed, he told the Senators on the committee that his role was like that of an umpire, to merely call balls and strikes.
The problem, though, is that Roberts has seemingly expanded the strike zone since he has been thrust into the role of Chief Justice.
It is as though he sometimes makes decisions not based on law or the Constitution, but rather the politically correct judgment. In his efforts to not politicize the Supreme Court, he has done just that.
The impeachment of Donald Trump
The role of the Chief Justice is far less prominent than it would be in a normal trial.
Roberts’ role would be to make decisions on substantive matters open to debate. He will also have to abide by the rules that are agreed to once the articles have been transmitted to the Senate.
Unlike the House hearings, though, Roberts will be the one deciding on specific witnesses being called in the course of the hearing. He will also have to decide if certain hearsay is admissible, which is about all the Democrats have to offer at this point.
Within the Senate impeachment rules, however, there is a stipulation that the presiding justice can be overruled in a Senate vote.
Roberts may decide to keep himself out of the flames by allowing the Senate to vote on such matters rather than making a judgment only to be overruled by the Senate anyway.
However this plays out, though, it will more than likely be a constant struggle for Justice Roberts to appear bipartisan. No matter which way he rules, the losing side will likely roast him.