One key consequence of that visceral partisanship is that federal judicial appointments are being logjammed by Senate Republicans. NYTimes Linda Greenhouse describes the situation:
The Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making arm of the federal courts, which the chief justice heads, has identified 49 of the current 105 vacancies as “judicial emergencies.” This is a nonpolitical designation, based on a formula that takes into account the judicial workload on a particular court and the length of time the position has gone unfilled. The number of “emergencies” has doubled since the start of the Obama administration
So the Chief Justice has an opportunity to do what his predecessor and mentor, Chief Justice Rehnquist did when the same situation arose in 1997. Then Chief Justice Rehnquist spoke out against the stalled legal appointments of that era. The occasion is the Chief Justice’s annual report on the state of the federal judiciary. Yes, it is another benchmark of whether this Chief Justice is going to support precedent and speak out against the divisive partisanship that is creeping into US Federal governance. In short, is Chief Justice Roberts going to a part of the partisan problem or part of the solution?