Chief Justice John Roberts for the first time joined the U.S. Supreme Courts liberal wing in blasting the conservative majoritys handling of the stream of emergency requests that critics have dubbed the shadow docket.

Roberts joined the three liberal justices in dissent Wednesday as the court temporarily

reinstated a Clean Water Act rule issued by former President Donald Trumps administration. A federal trial judge had tossed out the rule, which scaled back federal protections for streams, wetlands and other bodies of water. 


Writing for the dissenters, including Roberts, Justice Elena Kagan said the states and industry groups backing the rule hadnt shown that its reinstatement would have any practical impact. The court typically requires a showing of irreparable harm to issue an emergency order.

The majoritys decision renders the courts emergency docket not for emergencies at all, Kagan wrote. The docket becomes only another place for merits determinations — except made without full briefing and argument.

The Environmental Protection Agency under President Joe Biden is in the process of rewriting the rule. The court is planning to

consider a more sweeping clash over the reach of the Clean Water Act in the nine-month term that starts in October.

As is often the case with emergency orders, the court as a whole gave no explanation. 

With assistance by Jennifer A Dlouhy