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Chief Justice of the
United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Incumbent
John G. Roberts, Jr.

since September 29, 2005
Style Mister Chief Justice
Appointer Presidential nomination with Senate confirmation
Term length Life tenure
Inaugural holder John Jay
September 26, 1789
Formation U.S. Constitution
March 4, 1789
United States of America
Seal of the United States Supreme Court

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The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system (the judicial branch of the federal government of the United States) and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Although commonly done, it is incorrect to use the term Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice is the highest judicial officer in the country. He acts as a chief administrative officer for the federal courts and appoints the director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts. He also serves as a spokesman for the judicial branch.

The Chief Justice leads the business of the Supreme Court. In the case of an impeachment trial of a President, which has occurred twice in American history, the Chief Justice presides over the Senate. In modern tradition, the Chief Justice also has the duty of administering the oath of office of the President of the United States, but this is not required by the Constitution or any other law.

The first Chief Justice was John Jay. The seventeenth and current Chief Justice is John G. Roberts, Jr., who was nominated by President George W. Bush and took office on September 29, 2005 upon his confirmation by the Senate on a vote of 78-22 for confirmation. The salary of the Chief Justice is set by Congress, and it is slightly higher than that of the Associate Justices. As of 2010, it is $223,500 per year.[1]

Contents

Origin, title, and appointment to the post

The United States Constitution does not explicitly establish the office of Chief Justice, but presupposes its existence with a single reference in Article I, Section 3, Clause 6: "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside." Nothing more is said in the Constitution regarding the office, including any further distinction between the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, who are never mentioned as such in the Constitution.

The office is often incorrectly referred to as "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court." However, 28 U.S.C. § 1 specifies the official title as "Chief Justice of the United States". The official title changed at the suggestion of the sixth Chief Justice, Salmon P. Chase, who wished to emphasize the Court's role as a coequal branch of government. By contrast, the other eight members of the Court are officially Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, not "Associate Justices of the United States." In fact, the Chief Justice is the only member of the Court to whom the Constitution refers as a "Justice," and only in Article I. Article III of the Constitution refers to all members of the Supreme Court (and of other federal courts) simply as "Judges."

The Chief Justice, like all other federal judges, is nominated by the President and confirmed to sit on the Court by the Senate. The U.S. Constitution states that all justices of the Court "shall hold their offices during good behavior," meaning that the appointments only end when a justice dies in office, resigns, or is impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate.

Some chief justices, like William Rehnquist, were elevated by the President while serving on the bench as an Associate Justice. Justices who are elevated to the position of Chief Justice from that of Associate Justice must again be confirmed by the Senate (a rejection by the Senate, however, does not end their tenure as an Associate Justice—it merely precludes them from serving as Chief Justice). Most chief justices, including Roberts, have been nominated to the highest position on the Court without any previous experience on the Court; indeed some, like Earl Warren, were selected without any prior judicial experience.

Eighteen people have been nominated for Chief Justice and confirmed by the Senate: seventeen served (listed below). William Cushing was chosen in January 1796 but declined the office; Oliver Ellsworth served instead. The Senate subsequently confirmed John Jay to replace Ellsworth, though Jay declined to resume his former high office, citing both the burden of riding circuit and its impact on his health, and his perception of the Court's lack of prestige; John Marshall was nominated and confirmed shortly afterward.

Duties

Along with the duties of the associate justices, the Chief Justice has several unique duties.

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Impeachment trials

Article I, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the Chief Justice shall preside over impeachment trials of the President of the United States in the U.S. Senate. Two Chief Justices, Salmon P. Chase and William Rehnquist, have had the duty of presiding over the trial in the Senate that follows an impeachment of the President – Chase in 1868 over the proceedings against President Andrew Johnson and Rehnquist in 1999 over the proceedings against President Bill Clinton.

Further, the Chief Justice would preside over the impeachment trial of the Vice President if, under the terms of the 25th Amendment, the Vice President is serving as Acting President.[citation needed] However, no Vice President has been impeached (though Spiro Agnew resigned under threat of impeachment), and none has been Acting President for more than a few hours. Barring that exception, the Vice President would be in the awkward position of presiding over his own impeachment trial as President of the Senate unless he were to voluntarily absent himself and leave the President pro tempore to preside.

Seniority

John Marshall, the fourth and longest serving Chief Justice.

The Chief Justice is considered to be the justice with most seniority, independent of the number of years of service in the Court. As a result, the Chief Justice chairs the conferences where cases are discussed and voted on by the justices. The Chief Justice normally speaks first, and so has influence in framing the discussion.

The Chief Justice sets the agenda for the weekly meetings where the justices review the petitions for certiorari, to decide whether to hear or deny each case. The Supreme Court agrees to hear less than one percent of the cases petitioned to it. While Associate Justices may append items to the weekly agenda, in practice this initial agenda-setting power of the Chief Justice has significant influence over the direction of the court.

Despite the seniority and added prestige, the Chief Justice's vote carries the same legal weight as each of the other eight justices. In any decision, he has no legal authority to overrule the verdicts or interpretations of the other eight judges or tamper with them. However, in any vote, the most senior justice in the majority decides who will write the Opinion of the Court. Being the most senior member, the Chief Justice—when in the majority—decides who writes the Court's opinion. This power to determine the opinion author (including the option to select oneself) allows a Chief Justice in the majority to influence the historical record. Two justices in the same majority, given the opportunity, might write very different majority opinions (as evidenced by many concurring opinions); being assigned the opinion may also cement the vote of an Associate who is viewed as only marginally in the majority (a tactic that was reportedly used to some effect by Earl Warren). A Chief Justice who knows the Associate Justices can therefore do much—by the simple act of selecting the justice who writes the Opinion of the Court—to affect the "flavor" of the opinion, which in turn can affect the interpretation of that opinion in cases before lower courts in the years to come. It is said that some chief justices, notably Earl Warren[citation needed] and Warren Burger, sometimes switched votes to a majority they disagreed with to be able to use this prerogative of the Chief Justice to dictate who would write the opinion.[2]

William Rehnquist (left) takes the oath as Chief Justice from retiring Chief Justice Warren Burger in 1986, as his wife, Natalie, holds the Bible and President Ronald Reagan (far right, by flag) looks on.

Oath of office

The Chief Justice typically administers the oath of office at the inauguration of the President of the United States. This is a traditional rather than constitutional responsibility of the Chief Justice since law empowers[citation needed] any federal and state judge, as well as notaries public, to administer oaths and affirmations. The Constitution does not require that the oath be administered by anyone, simply that it be taken by the President.

If the Chief Justice is ill or incapacitated, the oath is usually administered by the next senior member of the Supreme Court. Seven times, someone other than the Chief Justice of the United States administered the oath of office to the President.[3] Robert Livingston, as Chancellor of the State of New York (the state's highest ranking judicial office), administered the oath of office to George Washington at his first inauguration; there was no Chief Justice of the United States, nor any other federal judge prior to their appointments by President Washington in the months following his inauguration. William Cushing, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, administered Washington's second oath of office in 1793. Calvin Coolidge's father, a notary public, administered the oath to his son after the death of Warren Harding.[4] This, however, was contested upon Coolidge's return to Washington and his oath was re-administered by Judge Adolph A. Hoehling, Jr. of the District of Columbia Supreme Court.[5] United States District Court Judge Sarah T. Hughes administered the oath to Lyndon Johnson after the John F. Kennedy assassination. John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, and Theodore Roosevelt's initial oaths reflected the unexpected nature of their taking office.

In addition, the Chief Justice ordinarily administers the oath of office to newly appointed and confirmed associate justices, whereas the senior associate justice will normally swear in a new Chief Justice.

Other duties

The Chief Justice also:

Unlike Senators and Representatives who are constitutionally prohibited from holding any other "office of trust or profit" of the United States or of any state while holding their congressional seats, the Chief Justice and the other members of the federal judiciary are not barred from serving in other positions. Chief Justice John Jay served as a diplomat to negotiate the so-called Jay Treaty (aka The Treaty of London of 1794), and Chief Justice Earl Warren chaired the The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy. As described above, the Chief Justice holds office in the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Disability or vacancy

Under 28 USC 3, when the Chief Justice is unable to discharge his functions, or that office is vacant, his duties are carried out by the most senior associate justice who is able to act, until the disability or vacancy ends.

List of Chief Justices

§ Recess appointment, later rejected by the Senate on December 15, 1795
¤ Previously served as an Associate Justice, but at a time disconnected to service as Chief Justice
° Elevated from Associate Justice
Previous service as U.S. President
Died in office
‡ As of March 19, 2010
No. Chief Justice Image Term of Office Time Served (Days) Nominated by President
1 John Jay John Jay 1.png September 26, 1789–June 29, 1795 2103 George Washington
2 John Rutledge §, ¤ John Rutledge.jpg July 1, 1795–December 28, 1795 181
3 Oliver Ellsworth Oliver Ellsworth.jpg March 8, 1796–December 15, 1800 1743
4 John Marshall CJMarshall.jpg February 4, 1801–July 6, 1835† 12571 John Adams (F)
5 Roger Brooke Taney Roger Taney - Healy.jpg March 28, 1836–October 12, 1864† 10426 Andrew Jackson (D)
6 Salmon Portland Chase Salmon Chase, Brady-Handy photo portrait ca1855-1865.jpg December 15, 1864–May 7, 1873† 3066 Abraham Lincoln (R)
7 Morrison Remick Waite Chief Justice Morrison Waite.jpg March 4, 1874–March 23, 1888† 5134 Ulysses S. Grant (R)
8 Melville Weston Fuller Melville Weston Fuller Chief Justice 1908.jpg October 8, 1888–July 4, 1910† 7939 Grover Cleveland (D)
9 Edward Douglass White ° Edward White, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left, 1905.jpg December 19, 1910–May 19, 1921† 3805 William Howard Taft (R)
10 William Howard Taft William Howard Taft as Chief Justice SCOTUS.jpg July 11, 1921–February 3, 1930 3130 Warren G. Harding (R)
11 Charles Evans Hughes ¤ Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes.jpg February 24, 1930–June 30, 1941 4145 Herbert Hoover (R)
12 Harlan Fiske Stone ° Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa 1927-1932.jpg July 3, 1941–April 22, 1946† 1755 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
13 Frederick Moore Vinson Fred m vinson.jpg June 24, 1946–September 8, 1953† 2634 Harry S. Truman (D)
14 Earl Warren Earl Warren.jpg October 5, 1953–June 23, 1969 5741 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
15 Warren Earl Burger Warren e burger photo.jpeg June 23, 1969–September 26, 1986 6305 Richard Nixon (R)
16 William Hubbs Rehnquist ° William Rehnquist.jpg September 26, 1986–September 3, 2005† 6918 Ronald Reagan (R)
17 John Glover Roberts, Jr. Official roberts CJ.jpg September 29, 2005–present 1632 ‡ George W. Bush (R)

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3. 
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1568021267. 
  • Flanders, Henry. The Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874 at Google Books.
  • Frank, John P. (1995). Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L.. eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0791013774. 
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195058356. 
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0871875543. 
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 590. ISBN 0815311761. 

See also

Notes

  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ See for example the description of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering after Roe v. Wade was argued the first time, in Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong's The Brethren.
  3. ^ Library of Congress. "Presidential Inaugurations: Presidential Oaths of Office."
  4. ^ Excerpt from Coolidge's autobiography.
  5. ^ Prologue: Selected Articles
  6. ^ "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress". Library of Congress. 2006-03-06. http://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/loc.html. Retrieved 2008-01-14. 

Simple English

The Chief Justice of the United States is the senior judge of the Supreme Court of the United States.

He has no more powers than any of the other judges of the Supreme Court, who are called Associate Justices. The Chief Justice is responsible for organising the Court's schedules and administration.

By tradition, the Chief Justice administers the oath of office to the President when the president starts his time as president. The only time this has not happened is when Calvin Coolidge became president.

List of Chief Justices

§ Recess appointment, later rejected by the Senate on December 15, 1795
¤ Previously served as an Associate Justice, but at a time disconnected to service as Chief Justice
° Elevated from Associate Justice
Also served as U.S. President
Died in office
No. Chief Justice Image Term of Office Nominated by President
1 John Jay File:John Jay October 19, 1789–June 29, 1795 George Washington
2 John Rutledge §, ¤ File:John July 1, 1795–December 28, 1795
3 Oliver Ellsworth File:Oliver March 8, 1796–December 15, 1800
4 John Marshall [[File:|80px]] February 4, 1801–July 6, 1835† John Adams (F)
5 Roger Brooke Taney File:Roger Taney - March 28, 1836–October 12, 1864† Andrew Jackson (D)
6 Salmon Portland Chase File:Salmon Chase, Brady-Handy photo portrait December 15, 1864–May 7, 1873† Abraham Lincoln (R)
7 Morrison Remick Waite File:Chief Justice Morrison March 4, 1874–March 23, 1888† Ulysses S. Grant (R)
8 Melville Weston Fuller File:Melville Weston Fuller Chief Justice October 8, 1888–July 4, 1910† Grover Cleveland (D)
9 Edward Douglass White ° File:Edward White, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly left, December 19, 1910–May 19, 1921† William Howard Taft (R)
10 William Howard Taft File:William Howard Taft as Chief Justice July 11, 1921–February 3, 1930 Warren G. Harding (R)
11 Charles Evans Hughes ¤ File:Chief Justice Charles Evans February 24, 1930–June 30, 1941 Herbert Hoover (R)
12 Harlan Fiske Stone ° File:Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone photograph circa July 3, 1941–April 22, 1946† Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
13 Frederick Moore Vinson File:Fred m June 24, 1946–September 8, 1953† Harry S. Truman (D)
14 Earl Warren File:Earl October 5, 1953–June 23, 1969 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
15 Warren Earl Burger File:Warren e burger June 23, 1969–September 26, 1986 Richard Nixon (R)
16 William Hubbs Rehnquist ° File:William September 26, 1986–September 3, 2005† Ronald Reagan (R)
17 John Glover Roberts, Jr. File:Official roberts September 29, 2005–present George W. Bush (R)


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