|John Glover Roberts, Jr.|
September 29, 2005
|Nominated by||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||William H. Rehnquist|
|Nominated by||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||James L. Buckley|
|Born||January 27, 1955
Buffalo, New York
|Spouse(s)||Jane Sullivan Roberts|
|Alma mater||Harvard College (A.B.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)
John Glover Roberts, Jr. (born January 27, 1955) is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the United States. He has served since 2005, having been nominated by President George W. Bush after the death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He adheres to a conservative judicial philosophy in his jurisprudence.
Roberts grew up in northern Indiana and was educated in a private school before attending Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. After being admitted to the bar, he served as a law clerk for William Rehnquist before taking a position in the Attorney General's office during the Reagan Administration. He went on to serve the Reagan Administration and the George H. W. Bush administration in the Department of Justice and the Office of the White House Counsel, before spending fourteen years in private law practice. During this time, he argued thirty-nine cases before the Supreme Court.
In 2003, he was appointed as a judge of the D.C. Circuit by President George W. Bush, where he served until his nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died before Roberts's confirmation hearings, Bush renominated Roberts to fill the newly vacant center seat.
Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 27, 1955, the son of John Glover (Jack) Roberts, Sr. (1928–2008) and Rosemary, née Podrasky. All of his maternal great-grandparents were from Czechoslovakia. His father was a plant manager with Bethlehem Steel. When Roberts was in second grade, his family moved to the beachside town of Long Beach, Indiana. He grew up with three sisters: Kathy, Peggy, and Barbara.
Roberts attended Notre Dame Elementary School, a Roman Catholic grade school in Long Beach, and then La Lumiere School, a Roman Catholic boarding school in LaPorte, Indiana and was an excellent student and athlete. He studied five years of Latin (in his four years) and some French, and was known for his devotion to his studies. He was captain of his football team (he later described himself as a "slow-footed linebacker"), and was a Regional Champion in wrestling. He participated in choir and drama, co-edited the school newspaper, and served on the athletic council and the Executive Committee of the Student Council. He was also valedictorian.
He attended Harvard College, graduating with an A.B. in history summa cum laude in three years. He then attended Harvard Law School, and was the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from law school with his J.D. magna cum laude in 1979.
After graduating from law school, Roberts served as a law clerk for Judge Henry Friendly on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for one year. From 1980 to 1981, he clerked for then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court. From 1981 to 1982, he served in the Reagan administration as a Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith. From 1982 to 1986, Roberts served as Associate Counsel to the President under White House Counsel Fred Fielding.
Roberts entered private law practice in 1986 as an associate at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Hogan & Hartson, but left to serve in the George H. W. Bush administration as Principal Deputy Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993. In 1992, George H. W. Bush nominated Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, but no Senate vote was held, and Roberts's nomination expired when Bush left office after losing the 1992 presidential election.
Roberts returned to Hogan & Hartson as a partner and became the head of the firm's appellate practice, in addition to serving as an adjunct faculty member at the Georgetown University Law Center. During this time, Roberts argued 39 cases for the government before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 25 of them. He represented 18 states in United States v. Microsoft. Those cases include:
|First Options v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938||March 22, 1995||May 22, 1995||Respondent|
|Adams v. Robertson, 520 U.S. 83||January 14, 1997||March 3, 1997||Respondent|
|Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520||December 10, 1997||February 25, 1999||Petitioner|
|Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., 523 U.S. 340||January 21, 1998||March 31, 1998||Petitioner|
|National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Smith, 525 U.S. 459||January 20, 1999||February 23, 1999||Petitioner|
|Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495||October 6, 1999||February 23, 2000||Respondent|
|Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers, 531 U.S. 57||October 2, 2000||November 28, 2000||Petitioner|
|TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 23||November 29, 2000||March 20, 2001||Petitioner|
|Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184||November 7, 2001||January 8, 2002||Petitioner|
|Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302||January 7, 2002||April 23, 2002||Respondent|
|Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, 536 U.S. 355||January 16, 2002||June 20, 2002||Petitioner|
|Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273||April 24, 2002||June 20, 2002||Petitioner|
|Barnhart v. Peabody Coal Co., 537 U.S. 149||October 8, 2002||January 15, 2003||Respondent|
|Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84||November 13, 2002||March 5, 2003||Petitioner|
In 2000, Roberts traveled to Tallahassee, Florida to advise Jeb Bush, then the Governor of Florida, concerning the latter's actions in the Florida election recount during the presidential election.
On May 10, 2001, President George W. Bush nominated Roberts for a different seat on the D.C. Circuit, which had been vacated by James L. Buckley. The Senate at the time, however, was controlled by the Democrats, who were in conflict with Bush over his judicial nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, refused to give Roberts a hearing in the 107th Congress. The GOP regained control of the Senate on January 7, 2003, and Bush resubmitted Roberts's nomination that day. Roberts was confirmed on May 8, 2003, and received his commission on June 2, 2003. During his two year tenure on the D.C. Circuit, Roberts authored 49 opinions, eliciting two dissents from other judges, and authoring three dissents of his own.
Notable decisions on the D.C. Circuit include the following:
Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 386 F.3d 1148, involved a 12-year-old girl who was, according to the Washington Post, asked if she had any drugs in her possession, searched for drugs, taken into custody, handcuffed, driven to police headquarters, booked, and fingerprinted after she violated a publicly advertised zero tolerance "no eating" policy in a Washington Metro station by eating a single french fry. She sued; the D.C. Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, which was predicated on the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, and which alleged that an adult would have only received a citation for the same offense, while children must be detained until parents are notified.
"No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation," Roberts wrote, and noted that the policies under which the girl was apprehended had since been changed. Because age discrimination is evaluated using a rational basis test, however, only weak state interests were required to justify the policy, and the panel concluded they were present. "Because parents and guardians play an essential role in that rehabilitative process, it is reasonable for the District to seek to ensure their participation, and the method chosen — detention until the parent is notified and retrieves the child — certainly does that, in a way issuing a citation might not." The court concluded that the policy and detention were constitutional, noting that "the question before us... is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution," language reminiscent of Justice Potter Stewart's dissent in Griswold v. Connecticut. "We are not asked in this case to say whether we think this law is unwise, or even asinine," Stewart had written; "[w]e are asked to hold that it violates the United States Constitution. And that, I cannot do."
In Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, Roberts was part of a unanimous Circuit panel overturning the district court ruling and upholding military tribunals set up by the Bush administration for trying terrorism suspects known as enemy combatants. Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph, writing for the court, ruled that Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, could be tried by a military court because:
The court held open the possibility of judicial review of the results of the military commission after the current proceedings have ended. This decision was overturned on June 29, 2006 by the Supreme Court in a 5-3 decision, with Roberts not participating due to his prior ruling as a circuit judge.
On the U.S. Court of Appeals, Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion regarding Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, 323 F.3d 1062, a case involving the protection of a rare California toad under the Endangered Species Act. When the court denied a rehearing en banc, 334 F.3d 1158 (D.C. Cir. 2003), Roberts dissented, arguing that the original opinion was wrongly decided because he found it inconsistent with United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison in that it focused on the effects of the regulation, rather than the taking of the toads themselves, on interstate commerce. In Roberts's view, the Commerce Clause of the Constitution did not permit the government to regulate activity affecting what he called "a hapless toad" that "for reasons of its own, lives its entire life in California." He said that reviewing the case could allow the court "alternative grounds for sustaining application of the Act that may be more consistent with Supreme Court precedent."
On July 19, 2005, President Bush nominated Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill a vacancy that would be left by the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts was the first Supreme Court nominee since Stephen Breyer in 1994. Bush announced Roberts's nomination in a live, nationwide television broadcast from the East Room of the White House at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005 while Roberts's confirmation was still pending before the Senate. Shortly thereafter, on September 6, Bush withdrew Roberts's nomination as O'Connor's successor and announced Roberts's new nomination to the position of Chief Justice. Bush asked the Senate to expedite Roberts's confirmation hearings in order to fill the vacancy by the beginning of the Supreme Court's session in early October.
During his confirmation hearing, Roberts said he did not have a set jurisprudential approach, and that he did "not think beginning with an all-encompassing approach to constitutional interpretation is the best way to faithfully construe the document." Among the issues he discussed were:
Mr Roberts has shown a pragmatic approach to federalism in the past, stating on the radio in 1999:
Here he shows deference for the federal nature of the United States of America. Mr Roberts continues (a defence to his pragmatism) by responding to this 1999 radio show quote given by Feingold, in saying:
In referring to Brown v. Board that overturned school segregation: "the Court in that case, of course, overruled a prior decision. I don't think that constitutes judicial activism because obviously if the decision is wrong, it should be overruled. That's not activism. That's applying the law correctly."
While working as a lawyer for the Reagan administration, Roberts wrote legal memos defending administration policies on abortion. At his nomination hearing Roberts testified that the legal memos represented the views of the administration he was representing at the time and not necessarily his own. "Senator, I was a staff lawyer; I didn't have a position," Roberts said. As a lawyer in the George H. W. Bush administration, Roberts signed a legal brief urging the court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
In private meetings with senators before his confirmation, Roberts testified that Roe was settled law, but added that it was subject to the legal principle of stare decisis, meaning that while the Court must give some weight to the precedent, it was not legally bound to uphold it.
In his Senate testimony, Roberts said that, while sitting on the Appellate Court, he would have an obligation to respect precedents established by the Supreme Court, including the controversial decision invalidating many restrictions on the right to an abortion. He stated: "Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. [...] There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent, as well as Casey." Following the traditional reticence of nominees to indicate which way they might vote on an issue likely to come before the high court, he did not explicitly say whether he would vote to overturn either.
On September 22 the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Roberts's nomination by a vote of 13 to 5, with Senators Ted Kennedy, Richard Durbin, Charles Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein casting the dissenting votes. Roberts was confirmed by the full Senate on September 29 by a margin of 78-22. All Republicans and the lone Independent voted for Roberts; the Democrats split evenly, 22 for and 22 against. Roberts was confirmed by what was, historically, a narrow margin for a Supreme Court Justice. While this margin was greater than the 65 to 33 vote in 1986 confirming Roberts's predecessor, William Rehnquist, as Chief Justice, and far greater than the 52 to 48 vote confirming Clarence Thomas as Associate Justice in 1991, it was far narrower than all other recent appointments: Stephen Breyer (87 to 9), David Souter (90 to 9), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (96 to 3), Anthony Kennedy (97 to 0), John Paul Stevens (98 to 0), Antonin Scalia (98 to 0), and Sandra Day O'Connor (99 to 0).
Roberts took the Constitutional oath of office, administered by senior Associate Justice John Paul Stevens at the White House, on September 29. On October 3, he took the judicial oath provided for by the Judiciary Act of 1789 at the United States Supreme Court building, prior to the first oral arguments of the 2005 term. Ending weeks of speculation, Roberts wore a plain black robe, dispensing with the gold sleeve-bars added to the Chief Justice's robes by his predecessor. Then 50, Roberts became the youngest member of the Court, and the third-youngest person to have ever become Chief Justice (John Jay was appointed at age 44 in 1789 while John Marshall was appointed at age 45 in 1801). However, many Associate Justices, such as Clarence Thomas (appointed at age 43) and William O. Douglas (appointed at age 41 in 1939), have joined the Court at a younger age than Roberts.
Since joining the court, Justice Antonin Scalia has said that Roberts "pretty much run[s] the show the same way" as Rehnquist, albeit "let[ting] people go on a little longer at conference ... but [he'll] get over that." Roberts has been portrayed as a consistent advocate for conservative principles from analysts such as Jeffrey Toobin.
Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Sykes, surveying Roberts's first term on the court, concluded that his jurisprudence "appears to be strongly rooted in the discipline of traditional legal method, evincing a fidelity to text, structure, history, and the constitutional hierarchy. He exhibits the restraint that flows from the careful application of established decisional rules and the practice of reasoning from the case law. He appears to place great stock in the process-oriented tools and doctrinal rules that guard against the aggregation of judicial power and keep judicial discretion in check: jurisdictional limits, structural federalism, textualism, and the procedural rules that govern the scope of judicial review."
On January 17, 2006, Roberts dissented along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas in Gonzales v. Oregon, which held that the Controlled Substances Act does not allow the United States Attorney General to prohibit physicians from prescribing drugs for the assisted suicide of the terminally ill as permitted by an Oregon law. The point of contention in this case was largely one of statutory interpretation, not federalism.
On March 6, 2006, Roberts wrote the unanimous decision in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights that colleges accepting federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, despite university objections to the Clinton administration-initiated "Don't ask, don't tell" policy on gay people in the military.
Roberts wrote his first dissent in the case Georgia v. Randolph, decided March 22, 2006. The majority's decision prohibited police from searching a home if, as in this case, both occupants are present but one occupant objected while another consented. Roberts's dissent criticized the majority opinion as inconsistent with prior case law and for basing its reasoning in part on its perception of social custom.
Although Roberts has often sided with Scalia and Thomas, Roberts provided a crucial vote against their position in Jones v. Flowers. In Jones, Roberts sided with the liberal bloc of the court in ruling that, before a home is seized and sold in a tax-forfeiture sale, due diligence must be demonstrated and proper notification needs to be sent to the owners. Dissenting were Anthony Kennedy along with Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Samuel Alito did not participate, while Roberts's opinion was joined by David Souter, Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
On the Supreme Court, Roberts has indicated he supports some abortion restrictions. In Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), the only significant abortion case the court has decided since Roberts joined, he voted with the majority to uphold the constitutionality of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a five-justice majority, distinguished Stenberg v. Carhart, and concluded that the court's previous decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey did not prevent Congress from banning the procedure. The decision left the door open for future as-applied challenges, and did not address the broader question of whether Congress had the authority to pass the law. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion, contending that the Court's prior decisions in Roe v. Wade and Casey should be reversed; Roberts declined to join that opinion.
Roberts opposes the use of race in assigning students to particular schools, including for purposes such as maintaining integrated schools. He sees such plans as discrimination in violation of the constitution's equal protection clause and Brown v. Board of Education. In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, the court considered two voluntarily adopted school district plans that relied on race to determine which schools certain children may attend. The court had held in Brown that "racial discrimination in public education is unconstitutional," and later, that "racial classifications, imposed by whatever federal, state, or local governmental actor, ... are constitutional only if they are narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests," and that this "[n]arrow tailoring ... require[s] serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives." Roberts cited these cases in writing for the Parents Involved majority, concluding that the school districts had "failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals." In a section of the opinion joined by four other Justices, Roberts added that "[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race."
Roberts authored the 2007 student free speech case Morse v. Frederick, ruling that a student in a public school-sponsored activity does not have the right to advocate drug use on the basis that the right to free speech does not invariably prevent the exercise of school discipline.
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As Chief Justice, Roberts also serves in a variety of non-judicial roles, including Chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution and leading the Judicial Conference of the United States. Perhaps the best known of these is the custom of the Chief Justice administering the oath of office at Presidential inaugurations. Roberts debuted in this capacity at the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, 2009. (As a Senator, Obama had voted against Roberts's confirmation to the Supreme Court, making the event doubly a first: the first time a president was sworn in by someone whose confirmation he opposed.) Things did not go smoothly. As liberal columnist Jeffrey Toobin tells the story:
|“||Through intermediaries, Roberts and Obama had agreed how to divide the thirty-five-word oath for the swearing in. Obama was first supposed to repeat the clause “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear.” But, when Obama heard Roberts begin to speak, he interrupted Roberts before he said “do solemnly swear.” This apparently flustered the Chief Justice, who then made a mistake in the next line, inserting the word “faithfully” out of order. Obama smiled, apparently recognizing the error, then tried to follow along. Roberts then garbled another word in the next passage, before correctly reciting, “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”||”|
The Associated Press has reported that "[l]ater, as the two men shook hands in the Capitol, Roberts appeared to say the mistake was his fault." The following evening, in the White House Map Room with reporters present, Roberts and Obama repeated the oath correctly. This was, according to the White House, to ensure with "an abundance of caution" that the Constitutional requirement had been met.
Roberts is one of twelve Catholic justices — out of 111 justices total — in the history of the Supreme Court. Of those 12 justices, six (Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor) are currently serving. He married Jane Sullivan in Washington in 1996. She is an attorney, a Catholic, and a trustee (along with Clarence Thomas) at her alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. The Robertses adopted two children, John (Jack) and Josephine (Josie).
Chief Justice Roberts suffered a seizure on July 30, 2007, while at his vacation home on Hupper Island off the village of Port Clyde in St. George, Maine. As a result of the seizure he fell five to ten feet on a dock near his house but suffered only minor scrapes. He was taken by private boat to the mainland (which is several hundred yards from the island) and then by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, where he stayed overnight, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Kathy Arberg. Doctors called the incident a benign idiopathic seizure, which means there was no obvious physiological cause.
Roberts had suffered a similar seizure in 1993. After this first seizure, Roberts temporarily limited some of his activities, such as driving. According to Senator Arlen Specter, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during Roberts's nomination to be Chief Justice in 2005, senators were aware of this seizure when they were considering his nomination, but the committee did not think it was significant enough to bring up during his confirmation hearings. Federal judges are not required by law to release information about their health.
According to neurologist Dr. Marc Schlosberg of Washington Hospital Center, who has no direct connection to the Roberts case, someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is by definition determined to have epilepsy. After two seizures, the likelihood of another at some point is greater than 60 percent. Dr. Steven Garner of New York Methodist Hospital, who is also uninvolved with the case, said that Roberts's previous history of seizures means that the second incident may be less serious than if this were a newly emerging problem.
The Supreme Court said in a statement Roberts has "fully recovered from the incident," and a neurological evaluation "revealed no cause for concern." Sanjay Gupta, a CNN contributor and a neurosurgeon not involved in Roberts's case, said when an otherwise healthy person has a seizure, his doctor would investigate whether the patient had started any new medications and had normal electrolyte levels. If those two things were normal, then a brain scan would be performed. If Roberts does not have another seizure within a relatively short time period, Gupta said he was unsure if Roberts would be given the diagnosis of epilepsy. He said the Chief Justice may need to take an anti-seizure medication.
According to a 16-page financial disclosure form Roberts submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, his net worth was more than $6 million, including $1.6 million in stock holdings. At the time Roberts left private practice to join the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, he took a pay cut from $1 million a year to $171,800; as Chief Justice his salary is $217,400. Roberts also holds a one-eighth interest in a cottage in Knocklong, an Irish village in County Limerick. His wife's family descend from Charleville Co. Cork, Co. Kerry, and Co. Fermanagh in Ireland.
The University of Michigan Law Library (External Links, below) has compiled fulltext links to these articles and a number of briefs and arguments.
James L. Buckley
|Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
William H. Rehnquist
|Chief Justice of the United States
September 29, 2005 – present
|United States order of precedence|
Speaker of the House of Representatives
|United States order of precedence
Chief Justice of the United States
Former President of the United States
John Glover Roberts, Jr.
|Assumed office |
September 29, 2005
|Nominated by||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||William Rehnquist|
|Born|| January 27, 1955|
Buffalo, New York
|Spouse||Jane Sullivan Roberts|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
John Glover Roberts, Jr. (born January 27, 1955) is the seventeenth and current Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Appointed by President George W. Bush, Roberts is generally considered a member of the more conservative wing of the court.
Before joining the Supreme Court on September 29, 2005, Roberts was a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for two years.
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