The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court plays a critical role in shaping national politics and public policy. While political scientists tend to focus on the ways in which the chief affects the Court’s jurisprudence, relatively little attention has been devoted to the unique administrative aspects of the position that allow for strategic influence over political and legal outcomes. This article examines the role of the chief justice as the head of the Judicial Conference, which is the primary policy making body for federal courts in the United States. Specifically, I examine the degree to which Chief Justice Roberts has appointed members to the Conference’s rulemaking committees with a long-standing conservative legal goal in mind: constricting access to courts. By focusing on the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in particular, I show that Chief Justice Roberts’ sole discretion to appoint members to these committees constitutes a “purely procedural” role through which he has exercised extensive political power, blurring the line between “law” and “politics” to great effect.
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