Imagine if the president, instead of giving a full State of the Union address, sent a note to Congress telling the legislative branch that life is good, all is okay, and let’s catch up next year. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. did something close to that last week in his annual report on the state of the judiciary, and it left some wishing for more.

Instead of a laundry list of needs and wishes from the judicial branch, as he and his predecessors have recited since the custom of writing the annual reports began in 1970, Roberts this time said … not very much. Apart from statistics about federal court caseloads and the like, Roberts’ most substantive statement was this: “The courts are operating soundly, and the nation’s dedicated federal judges are conscientiously discharging their duties.” He suggested that with the political branches occupied with a range of pressing issues, and economic hardship facing the population, the “public might welcome” such a positive, nondemanding report.

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