But he added that the outside criticism did not affect the court’s independence. “A lot of the criticism is based on a misperception,” he said.This was a funny exchange:
People often note that the court is made up of five Republican appointees and four Democratic ones, he said, and they expect predictable 5-to-4 decisions along those lines.
“Last year,” he said, “we had 19 5-to-4 decisions, and seven of them were divided with the five justices appointed by Republican presidents in the majority and the four justices appointed by Democratic presidents in dissent.”
“That shouldn’t come as a surprise because we don’t go about our work in a political manner,” he said.
The last term’s two biggest decisions, on partisan gerrymandering and adding a question on citizenship to the census, both featured controlling opinions written by the chief justice, who was appointed by President George W. Bush. Both were closely divided. In the gerrymandering case, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the other Republican appointees. In the key part of the census decision, he voted with the four Democratic appointees.
And, of course, Justice Ginsburg brings her experience as a rock star,” he said.
Asked if he could best Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at push-ups, he said that would not be a fair fight.
“She has so much less to push up,” he said. “I can comfortably say that I can bench press her weight and she can’t bench press mine.”
Asked for his favorite classic rock band, Chief Justice Roberts, 64, picked the Byrds, saying he had seen them not long ago. “I’ve never been in a room with more 65-year-old men with ponytails,” he said.
He also endorsed the decision to award the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan, an observation that was greeted by applause.