Roberts Plays Politics by Denying Judges Are Political

The chief justice surprisingly switches sides in campaign-finance case.

What does a man in a robe know about tailoring?

Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Chief Justice John Roberts isn't a politician -- and he wants you to know it. That's the message of a surprising 5-4 decision issued Wednesday by the U.S. Supreme Court in which Roberts provided the deciding vote. The court held that Florida may prohibit judges running for office from directly soliciting money from contributors. Ordinarily, as in the Citizens United decision, campaign-finance cases in the Roberts court go 5-4 the other way, and the court strikes down legal restrictions as violating free-speech. The other eight justices all voted consistently with their usual views. Only Roberts flipped in the judicial elections case -- and therein hangs an important tale about Roberts himself and the legacy he hopes to produce.

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