Chief Justice John Roberts and Closing The Courthouse Doors

Washington, DC – On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court heard Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center –at issue in which is whether Medicaid providers have a right under the Constitution to sue to enjoin state action that they contend is preempted by federal law – Constitutional Accountability Center is releasing the latest snapshot in its “Roberts at 10” project examining John Roberts’s first decade  as Chief Justice of the United States: Roberts at 10: Roberts’s Consistent Votes to Close the Courthouse Doors


Today’s snapshot looks at Chief Justice Roberts’s approach to  the right of Americans to bring lawsuits in  federal court. In this snapshot, we examine four distinct areas of the law relevant to access to the courts and discuss the most significant cases and votes of Chief Justice Roberts in each area: (1) who may constitutionally bring a claim in court, (2) whether individuals may bring their claims in court or must instead use private arbitration procedures, (3) what a plaintiff must allege at the outset of litigation to avoid having his or her case dismissed, and (4) when individuals may use the federal courts to challenge unconstitutional state action.


Read the new “Roberts at 10” snapshot and an excerpt here: 


Cases in all of these areas regularly come before the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Court is scheduled to decide a potentially significant case in the final category this Term. In that case (Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc.), the Court has been asked to decide whether plaintiffs who assert that they have been harmed by a state law — specifically, health care providers who allege that they are not receiving adequate payments from Medicaid because of a state law — can ask a federal court to stop state officials from enforcing that state law because it conflicts with federal law. The ramifications of the Court’s decision in Armstrong could be significant not only for individuals seeking their day in court to redress all manner of unlawful state action, but also for the effective operation of the nation’s health care system…. John Roberts has long said that he thinks the role of the courts should be a limited one, and that restricting access to the courts is an important way to preserve that limited role. In his first decade as Chief Justice, he has made clear that his views on this score have not changed, consistently voting to limit access to the courts in a number of different ways.




Additional Resources:


Roberts at 10: A Look at the First Decade of John Roberts’s Tenure as Chief Justice (opening Snapshot): 


Roberts at 10: Federal Power: The Evolving Story of John Roberts and Congress’s Commerce Clause and Spending Clause Powers: 


Roberts at 10: Campaign Finance and Voting Rights: Easier to Donate, Harder to Vote: 


Roberts at 10: Roberts’s Quiet, But Critical, Votes To Limit Women’s Rights: 


“Roberts at 10” experts available for interviews: CAC President Doug Kendall, Appellate Counsel Brianne Gorod, and Civil Rights Director David Gans.




Constitutional Accountability Center ( is a think tank, public interest law firm, and action center dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text and history.



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