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Roberts Backs Judicial Safety, Says Federal Criminal Cases Drop 8%

One of the most controversial terms in Supreme Court history included the leak of a draft opinion that later overturned a half century of abortion rights, public polls that showed record disapproval of the court’s work and dissension among the justices about the court’s legitimacy. Chief Justice John Roberts chose not to address those or other controversies in his annual “Year-end Report on the Federal Judiciary.” Instead, he focused on a federal judge’s efforts to implement school desegregation at Little Rock’s Central High School after the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. "We must support judges by ensuring their safety,” Roberts wrote. “A judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. The events of Little Rock teach about the importance of rule by law instead of by mob.” Roberts thanked Congress for a new law that allows judges to shield on the internet certain personal information about themselves and their families, such as home addresses, some financial information and employment details of their spouses, reports the Washington Post. Some groups worry that broad interpretation of the law could inhibit watchdog efforts.


The chief justice and other conservative members of the court have seen protesters outside their homes since the May leak of a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which a majority of the court overturned Roe v. Wade’s federal guarantee of abortion rights. Roberts announced an investigation of the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion in the spring, just days after it was published in Politico, but has not mentioned it since. Data in Roberts' report said that criminal appeals in federal courts were down six percent. Prisoner petitions accounted for 22 percent of appeals cases. Federal district courts docketed 68,315 criminal filings in FY 2022, eight percent fewer than the prior year and a 26 percent drop from FY 2019. The largest categories of criminal filings involved drug offenses, which fell 15 percent to 19,589, and immigration offenses, which decreased one percent to 19,148. Some 122,872 persons were under post-conviction supervision on September 30, an increase of less than one percent from the prior year and a five percent decrease compared to FY 2019.

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