John Roberts

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John Roberts
Official roberts CJ.jpg
17th Chief Justice of the United States
Assumed office
September 29, 2005
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byWilliam Rehnquist
Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 2, 2003 – September 29, 2005
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJames Buckley
Succeeded byPatricia Millett
Personal details
BornJohn Glover Roberts, Jr.
(1955-01-27) January 27, 1955 (age 59)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Jane Sullivan (m. 1996)
Alma materHarvard College (A.B.) (1976) (summa cum laude)
Harvard Law School (J.D.) (1979) (magna cum laude)
ReligionRoman Catholic
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John Roberts
Official roberts CJ.jpg
17th Chief Justice of the United States
Assumed office
September 29, 2005
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byWilliam Rehnquist
Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
In office
June 2, 2003 – September 29, 2005
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJames Buckley
Succeeded byPatricia Millett
Personal details
BornJohn Glover Roberts, Jr.
(1955-01-27) January 27, 1955 (age 59)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Spouse(s)Jane Sullivan (m. 1996)
Alma materHarvard College (A.B.) (1976) (summa cum laude)
Harvard Law School (J.D.) (1979) (magna cum laude)
ReligionRoman Catholic

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 Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He has been described as having 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 Judge Henry Friendly and then Justice 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 14 years in private law practice. During this time, he argued 39 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 was serving when he was nominated to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, initially to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died before Roberts's confirmation hearings, Bush renominated Roberts to fill the newly vacant center seat.

Early years[edit]

Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 27, 1955, the son of Rosemary (née Podrasky) and John Glover "Jack" Roberts, Sr. (1928–2008). His father was a plant manager with Bethlehem Steel.[1] He has Irish, Welsh, and Czech ancestry.[2] When Roberts was in fourth grade, his family moved to 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. In 1973, he graduated from La Lumiere School, a Roman Catholic boarding school in La Porte, Indiana, where he was an excellent student and athlete.[3] He studied five years of Latin (in four years),[1] some French, and was known generally for his devotion to his studies. He was captain of the 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.[1]

He attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with an A.B. summa cum laude in history in three years. He then attended Harvard Law School where he was the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.[1] He graduated from law school with a J.D. magna cum laude in 1979.[4]

Early legal career[edit]

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.[1] Roberts frequently cites Judge Friendly in his opinions. 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.[1] 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.[5] As part of Hogan & Hartson's pro bono work, he worked behind the scenes for gay rights advocates, reviewing filings and preparing arguments for the Supreme Court case Romer v. Evans (1996), which was described in 2005 as "the movement's most important legal victory". Roberts also argued on behalf of the homeless, a case which became "one of Roberts' few appellate losses".[6] Another pro bono matter was a death penalty case in which he represented John Ferguson, who was convicted of killing eight people in Florida.[7][8]

Roberts left Hogan & Hartson to serve in the George H. W. Bush administration as Principal Deputy Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993[1] and as Acting Solicitor General for the purposes of at least one case when Ken Starr had a conflict.[9][10]

In 1992, President 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 at the end of the 102nd Congress.

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 before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 25 of them.[11] He represented 18 states in United States v. Microsoft.[citation needed] Those cases include:

First Options v. Kaplan, 514 U.S. 938March 22, 1995May 22, 1995Respondent
Adams v. Robertson, 520 U.S. 83January 14, 1997March 3, 1997Respondent
Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government, 522 U.S. 520December 10, 1997February 25, 1999Petitioner
Feltner v. Columbia Pictures Television, Inc., 523 U.S. 340January 21, 1998March 31, 1998Petitioner
National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Smith, 525 U.S. 459January 20, 1999February 23, 1999Petitioner
Rice v. Cayetano, 528 U.S. 495October 6, 1999February 23, 2000Respondent
Eastern Associated Coal Corp. v. Mine Workers, 531 U.S. 57October 2, 2000November 28, 2000Petitioner
TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 23November 29, 2000March 20, 2001Petitioner
Toyota Motor Manufacturing v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184November 7, 2001January 8, 2002Petitioner
Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302January 7, 2002April 23, 2002Respondent
Rush Prudential HMO, Inc. v. Moran, 536 U.S. 355January 16, 2002June 20, 2002Petitioner
Gonzaga University v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273April 24, 2002June 20, 2002Petitioner
Barnhart v. Peabody Coal Co., 537 U.S. 149October 8, 2002January 15, 2003Respondent
Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84November 13, 2002March 5, 2003Petitioner

During the late 1990s, while working for Hogan & Hartson, Roberts served as a member of the steering committee of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the conservative Federalist Society.[12]

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.[13]

On the D.C. Circuit[edit]

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.[14] 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,[15] 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:

Fourth and Fifth Amendments[edit]

Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 386 F.3d 1148,[16] involved a 12-year-old girl who was arrested, searched, 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 was released to her mother three hours later. She sued, alleging that an adult would have only received a citation for the same offense, while children must be detained until parents are notified. The D.C. Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case, which was predicated on alleged violations of the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) and Fifth Amendment (equal protection).

"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."

Military tribunals[edit]

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,[17] could be tried by a military court because:

  1. the military commission had the approval of the United States Congress;
  2. the Third Geneva Convention is a treaty between nations and as such it does not confer individual rights and remedies enforceable in U.S. courts;
  3. even if the Convention could be enforced in U.S. courts, it would not be of assistance to Hamdan at the time because, for a conflict such as the war against Al-Qaeda (considered by the court as a separate war from that against Afghanistan itself) that is not between two countries, it guarantees only a certain standard of judicial procedure without speaking to the jurisdiction in which the prisoner must be tried.

The court held open the possibility of judicial review of the results of the military commission after the current proceedings have ended.[18] 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.

Environmental regulation[edit]

Roberts wrote a dissent in 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 panel opinion was inconsistent with United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison in that it incorrectly focused on whether the regulation substantially affects interstate commerce rather than on whether the regulated activity does. 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 panel decision would allow the court "alternative grounds for sustaining application of the Act that may be more consistent with Supreme Court precedent."[19]

Nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court[edit]

On July 19, 2005, President Bush nominated Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill a vacancy that would be created by the retirement 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.

John Roberts appears in the background, while President Bush is announcing his nomination for the position of Chief Justice.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died on September 3, 2005, while Roberts's confirmation was still pending before the Senate. Shortly thereafter, on September 5, Bush withdrew Roberts's nomination as O'Connor's successor and announced Roberts's new nomination to the position of Chief Justice.[20] Bush asked the Senate to expedite Roberts's confirmation hearings to fill the vacancy by the beginning of the Supreme Court's session in early October.

Roberts's testimony on his jurisprudence[edit]

During his confirmation hearings, Roberts said that he did not have a comprehensive jurisprudential philosophy, and he did "not think beginning with an all-encompassing approach to constitutional interpretation is the best way to faithfully construe the document".[21][22] Roberts analogized judges to baseball umpires: "[I]t's my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat."[23] Roberts demonstrated an encyclopedic knowledge of Supreme Court precedent, which he discussed without notes. Among the issues he discussed were:

Commerce Clause[edit]

Starting with McCulloch v. Maryland, Chief Justice John Marshall gave a very broad and expansive reading to the powers of the Federal Government and explained generally that if the ends be legitimate, then any means chosen to achieve them are within the power of the Federal Government, and cases interpreting that, throughout the years, have come down. Certainly, by the time Lopez was decided, many of us had learned in law school that it was just sort of a formality to say that interstate commerce was affected and that cases weren't going to be thrown out that way. Lopez certainly breathed new life into the Commerce Clause.

I think it remains to be seen, in subsequent decisions, how rigorous a showing, and in many cases, it is just a showing. It's not a question of an abstract fact, does this affect interstate commerce or not, but has this body, the Congress, demonstrated the impact on interstate commerce that drove them to legislate? That's a very important factor. It wasn't present in Lopez at all. I think the members of Congress had heard the same thing I had heard in law school, that this is unimportant—and they hadn't gone through the process of establishing a record in that case.[22]


Roberts showed a more traditional approach to federalism in the past, stating in a 1999 radio interview:

"We have gotten to the point these days where we think the only way we can show we’re serious about a problem is if we pass a federal law, whether it is the Violence Against Women Act or anything else. The fact of the matter is conditions are different in different states, and state laws can be more relevant is I think exactly the right term, more attune to the different situations in New York, as opposed to Minnesota, and that is what the Federal system is based on."[24]

Reviewing Acts of Congress[edit]

The Supreme Court has, throughout its history, on many occasions described the deference that is due to legislative judgments. Justice Holmes described assessing the constitutionality of an act of Congress as the gravest duty that the Supreme Court is called upon to perform. ... It's a principle that is easily stated and needs to be observed in practice, as well as in theory.

Now, the Court, of course, has the obligation, and has been recognized since Marbury v. Madison, to assess the constitutionality of acts of Congress, and when those acts are challenged, it is the obligation of the Court to say what the law is. The determination of when deference to legislative policy judgments goes too far and becomes abdication of the judicial responsibility, and when scrutiny of those judgments goes too far on the part of the judges and becomes what I think is properly called judicial activism, that is certainly the central dilemma of having an unelected, as you describe it correctly, undemocratic judiciary in a democratic republic.[22]

Stare decisis[edit]

On the subject of stare decisis, referring to Brown v. Board, the decision overturning school segregation, Roberts said that "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."[25]

Roe v. Wade[edit]

While working as a lawyer for the Reagan administration, Roberts wrote legal memos defending administration policies on abortion.[26] 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.[27] "Senator, I was a staff lawyer; I didn't have a position," Roberts said.[27] As a lawyer in the George H. W. Bush administration, Roberts signed a legal brief urging the court to overturn Roe v. Wade.[28]

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,[29] meaning that while the Court must give some weight to the precedent, it was not legally bound to uphold it.[citation needed]

In his Senate testimony, Roberts said that, while sitting on the Appellate Court, he had 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 reluctance of nominees to indicate which way they might vote on an issue likely to come before the Supreme Court, he did not explicitly say whether he would vote to overturn either.[21]


On September 22, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Roberts's nomination by a vote of 13–5, 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.[30] All Republicans and the one Independent voted for Roberts; the Democrats split evenly, 22–22. Roberts was confirmed by what was, historically, a narrow margin for a Supreme Court justice. However, all subsequent confirmation votes have been even narrower,[31][32][33] and the nomination of Harriet Miers was never voted on.

On the U.S. Supreme Court[edit]

Roberts is sworn in as Chief Justice by Justice John Paul Stevens in the East Room of the White House, September 29, 2005.

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.

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."[34] Roberts has been portrayed as a consistent advocate for conservative principles by analysts such as Jeffrey Toobin.[35]

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."[36]

Early decisions[edit]

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.

Fourth Amendment[edit]

Roberts wrote his first dissent in Georgia v. Randolph (2006). The majority's decision prohibited police from searching a home if both occupants are present but one objected and the other consented. Roberts criticized the majority opinion as inconsistent with prior case law and for partly basing its reasoning on its perception of social custom. He said the social expectations test was flawed because the Fourth Amendment protects a legitimate expectation of privacy, not social expectations.[37]

Notice and opportunity to be heard[edit]

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 liberal justices 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.[38] 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.

Equal protection clause[edit]

Roberts opposes the use of race in assigning students to particular schools, including for purposes such as maintaining integrated schools.[39] He sees such plans as discrimination in violation of the constitution's equal protection clause and Brown v. Board of Education.[39][40] 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,"[41] 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,"[42] and that this "[n]arrow tailoring ... require[s] serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives."[43] 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."[44] 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."

Free speech[edit]

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.[45]

On April 20, 2010, in United States v. Stevens, the Supreme Court struck down an animal cruelty law. Roberts, writing for an 8–1 majority, found that a federal statute criminalizing the commercial production, sale, or possession of depictions of cruelty to animals, was an unconstitutional abridgment of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The Court held that the statute was substantially overbroad; for example, it could allow prosecutions for selling photos of out-of-season hunting.[46]

Health care reform[edit]

On June 28, 2012, Roberts delivered the majority opinion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a 5–4 vote. The Court indicated that although the "individual mandate" component of the Act could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause, the mandate could be construed as a tax and was therefore ruled to be valid under Congress's authority to "lay and collect taxes."[47][48] The Court overturned a portion of the law related to the withholding of funds from states that did not comply with the expansion of Medicaid; Roberts wrote that "Congress is not free ... to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."[48] Sources state that Roberts switched his vote regarding the individual mandate sometime after an initial vote.[49][50]

Non-judicial duties of the Chief Justice[edit]

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The full audio recording of Barack Obama and John G. Roberts as Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during his inauguration on January 20, 2009. (Duration: 45 seconds)

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Barack Obama being administered the oath of office by Roberts a second time on January 21, 2009.

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.[51]) Things did not go smoothly. According to columnist Jeffrey Toobin:

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.”[52]

Part of the difficulty was that Roberts did not have the text of the oath with him but relied on his memory. On later occasions when Roberts has administered an oath, he has taken the text with him.

The Associated Press reported that "[l]ater, as the two men shook hands in the Capitol, Roberts appeared to say the mistake was his fault."[53] 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, done in "an abundance of caution" to ensure that the constitutional requirement had been met.

Personal life[edit]

Roberts is one of thirteen Catholic justices—out of 111 justices total—in the history of the Supreme Court.[54] Of those thirteen justices, six (Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor) are currently serving. Roberts married Jane Sullivan in Washington in 1996.[1] 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 couple adopted two children, John (Jack) and Josephine (Josie).[1]


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.[55][56] As a result of the seizure he fell five to ten feet on a dock near his house but suffered only minor scrapes.[55] He was taken by private boat to the mainland[56] (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.[57] Doctors called the incident a benign idiopathic seizure, which means there was no identifiable physiological cause.[55][56][58][59]

Roberts had suffered a similar seizure in 1993.[55][56][58] 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.[55]

According to neurologist 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.[56] 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.[58]

The Supreme Court said in a statement that Roberts has "fully recovered from the incident" and that a neurological evaluation "revealed no cause for concern." Sanjay Gupta, a CNN contributor and a neurosurgeon not involved in Roberts's case, said that 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 that 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.[59]

Personal finances[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] His wife's family descends from Charleville, County Cork, County Kerry, and County Fermanagh in Ireland.[citation needed]

In August 2010, Roberts sold his stock in Pfizer, which allows him to participate in two pending cases involving the pharmaceutical maker. Justices are required to recuse themselves in cases in which they own stock of a party.[60]

Bibliography of articles by John G. Roberts Jr.[edit]

The University of Michigan Law Library (External Links, below) has compiled fulltext links to these articles and a number of briefs and arguments.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

News articles[edit]

Government/official biographies[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Purdum, Todd S.; Jodi Wilgoren and Pam Belluck (July 21, 2005). "Court Nominee's Life Is Rooted in Faith and Respect for Law". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Notre Dame Parish: Alumni". Notre Dame Catholic Church & School. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  4. ^ Matthew Continetti, "John Roberts's Other Papers", The Weekly Standard, August 8, 2005
  5. ^ "Former Hogan & Hartson Partner John G. Roberts, Jr. Confirmed as Chief Justice of the United States" (Press release), Hogan Lovells, September 29, 2005.
  6. ^ "Roberts Donated Help to Gay Rights Case - Los Angeles Times". August 4, 2005. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  7. ^ Etter, Sarah (October 3, 2005). "Chief Justice John Roberts and Inmate Cases". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  8. ^ Serwer, Adam (February 3, 2014). "A past client is used against an Obama nominee". Retrieved 2014-03-05. 
  9. ^ Becker, Jo (September 8, 2005), "Work on Rights Might Illuminate Roberts's Views", The Washington Post, retrieved March 1, 2011 
  10. ^ Tomasky, Michael, "Obama, gay marriage, the constitution and the Crackerjack prize" The Guardian, February 24, 2011, retrieved March 1, 2011
  11. ^ "Chief Justice John Roberts". NewsHour. PBS. March 9, 2007. Retrieved July 4, 2012. 
  12. ^ Lane, Charles (July 25, 2005). "Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97–98 Directory". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  13. ^ Wallsten, Peter (July 21, 2005). "Confirmation Path May Run Through Florida". Los Angeles Times. p. A–22. 
  14. ^ Pat Leahy, Judiciary Committee Chairman?, The Washington Times (October 17, 2006)
  15. ^ See 149 Cong. Rec. S5980 (2003).
  16. ^ Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, DC 03-7149 (United States District Court for the District of Columbia 2004).
  17. ^ "Lawyer says Hamden not al-Qaeda - Yemeni was bin Laden's driver - local". Yemen Times. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  18. ^ "USCA-DC Opinions - Search - 04-5393a.pdf". July 15, 2005. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  19. ^ See also: "Chief Justice Roberts—Constitutional Interpretations of Article III and the Commerce Clause: Will the 'Hapless Toad' and 'John Q. Public' Have Any Protection in the Roberts Court?" Paul A. Fortenberry and Daniel Canton Beck. 13 U. Balt. J. Envtl. L. 55 (2005)
  20. ^ "Chief Justice Nomination Announcement". C-SPAN. September 5, 2005. Retrieved April 14, 2011. 
  21. ^ a b United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary (2003). "Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments". Government Printing Office. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  22. ^ a b c Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 108th Congress, 1st Session, U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  23. ^ "Transcript: Day One of the Roberts Hearings". Washington Post. September 13, 2005. Retrieved July 4, 2012. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Testimony of the Honorable Dick Thornburgh" (Press release). United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. September 15, 2005. Retrieved December 5, 2008. 
  26. ^ Greenburg, Jan Crawford (2007). Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. New York: Penguin Press. p. 232. 
  27. ^ a b Goldstein, Amy; Charles Babington (September 15, 2005). "Roberts Avoids Specifics on Abortion Issue". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  28. ^ Greenburg, Jan Crawford (2007). Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. New York: Penguin Press. p. 226. 
  29. ^ Greenburg, Jan Crawford (2007). Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. New York: Penguin Press. p. 233. 
  30. ^ "U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records Home > Votes > Roll Call Vote". Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  31. ^ Roll call vote on the Nomination (Confirmation Samuel A. Alito, Jr., of New Jersey, to be an Associate Justice ). United States Senate. January 31, 2006. Retrieved 2010-08-05 
  32. ^ Roll call vote on the Nomination (Confirmation Sonia Sotomayor, of New York, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court ). United States Senate. August 6, 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-05 
  33. ^ Roll call vote on the Nomination (Confirmation Elena Kagan of Massachusetts, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the U.S. ). United States Senate. August 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-05 
  34. ^ "A conversation with Justice Antonin Scalia". Charlie Rose. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  35. ^ Toobin, Jeffrey (May 25, 2009). "No More Mr. Nice Guy". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  36. ^ Diane S. Sykes, "Of a Judiciary Nature": Observations on Chief Justice Roberts's First Opinions, 34 Pepp. L. Rev. 1027 (2007).
  37. ^ "Third Party Consent Searches After Georgia v. Randolph: Dueling Approaches to the Dueling Rommates" Renee E. Williams (2008) p.950 [1].
  38. ^ Justice Thomas wrote separately to emphasize this: "whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court" [2].
  39. ^ a b Toobin, Jeffrey (2008). The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court. New York: Doubleday. p. 389. ISBN 978-0-385-51640-2. 
  40. ^ Day to Day (June 28, 2007). "Justices Reject Race as Factor in School Placement". NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  41. ^ Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, [ 349 U.S. 294, 298 (1955) (Brown II).
  42. ^ Adarand Constructors v. Pena, 515 U.S. 200, 227 (1995).
  43. ^ Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306, 339 (2003).
  44. ^ Parents Involved, slip op. at 16.
  45. ^ (June 28, 2007). "The Supreme Court says no to race discrimination in schools". Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  46. ^ Tribune Wire Services. "Supreme court crushes law against animal cruelty videos and photos", Los Angeles Times, April 20, 2010.
  47. ^ Haberkorn, Jennifer (2012-06-28). "Health care ruling: Individual mandate upheld by Supreme Court". Politico. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  48. ^ a b Cushman, John (2012-06-28). "Supreme Court Lets Health Law Largely Stand". New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2012. 
  49. ^ "New SCOTUS parlor game: Did Roberts flip?". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  50. ^ Crawford, Jan (July 1, 2012). "Roberts switched views to uphold health care law". CBS News. Retrieved July 1, 2012. 
  51. ^ Associated Press - Chief Justice and Obama seal deal, with a stumble
  52. ^ Jefffrey Toobin, No More Mr. Nice Guy, The New Yorker, May 2009; see also Tom LoBianco - Chief justice fumbles presidential oath
  53. ^ Chief Justice stumbles giving presidential oath for first time, Associated Press - January 20, 2009 2:23 PM ET; see also Toobin, supra ("At the lunch in the Capitol that followed, the two men apologized to each other, but Roberts insisted that he was the one at fault").
  54. ^ Justice Sherman Minton converted to Catholicism after his retirement. See Religious affiliation of Supreme Court justices
  55. ^ a b c d e Mears, Bill; Jeane Meserve (July 31, 2007). "Chief justice tumbles after seizure". CNN. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  56. ^ a b c d e Sherman, Mark (July 31, 2007). "Chief Justice Roberts Suffers Seizures". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  57. ^ Maine Today staff (July 30, 2007). "Chief Justice John Roberts hospitalized in Maine". Maine Today. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  58. ^ a b c McCaleb, Ian; Associated Press (July 31, 2007). "President Bush Phones Chief Justice John Roberts at Hospital". Fox News. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  59. ^ a b Chernoff, Alan; Bill Mears, Dana Bash (July 31, 2007). "Chief justice leaves hospital after seizure". CNN. Archived from the original on May 15, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-05. 
  60. ^ Sherman, Mark (September 29, 2010). "Pfizer stock sold; Roberts to hear company's cases". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved April 28, 2011. 
  61. ^ Lane, Charles (July 25, 2005). "Roberts Listed in Federalist Society '97-98 Directory". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  62. ^ "‘Full, fair’ hearings pledged for court nominee - The Changing Court-". MSNBC. July 20, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  63. ^ Becker, Jo; Argetsinger, Amy (July 22, 2005). "The Nominee As a Young Pragmatist". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  64. ^ Baker, Peter; VandeHei, Jim (July 20, 2005). "Bush Chooses Roberts for Court". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  65. ^ Smith, R. Jeffrey; Becker, Jo (July 20, 2005). "Record of Accomplishment -- And Some Contradictions". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  66. ^ Stout, David; Bumiller, Elisabeth (July 19, 2005). "President's Choice of Roberts Ends a Day of Speculation". The New York Times. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  67. ^ "Bush picks conservative Roberts for Supreme Court". Reuters. Archived from the original on September 16, 2005. 
  68. ^ "Nominee Gave Quiet Advice on Recount" New York Times, July 21, 2005
  69. ^ Lane, Charles (July 21, 2005). "Federalist Affiliation Misstated". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  70. ^ Lane, Charles (July 21, 2005). "Short Record as Judge Is Under a Microscope". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  71. ^ [3] "If you ask John where he's from, he says Indiana." Indianapolis Star. July 20, 2005.
  72. ^ "Bush nominates John G. Roberts Jr. for Supreme Court". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 19, 2005. Archived from the original on September 11, 2005. 
  73. ^ [4][dead link]
  74. ^ Colleagues call high court nominee a smart, self-effacing 'Eagle Scout'. New York Times. July 20, 2005.
  75. ^ [5] "Who Is John G. Roberts Jr.?" ABC News. July 19, 2005
  76. ^ "President Announces Judge John Roberts as Supreme Court Nominee". July 19, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  77. ^ Biography of John Glover Roberts, Jr. from the Federal Judicial Center.
  78. ^ "John G. Roberts biography." Office of Legal Policy, U.S. Department of Justice.
  79. ^ "U.S. Court of Appeals - D.C. Circuit - Home". Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  80. ^
  81. ^ "Shannen W. Coffin on John Roberts on National Review Online". July 19, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  82. ^ [6] Hogan & Hartson, LLP. July 20, 2005.
  83. ^ Oyez: John G. Roberts, Jr., U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice
  84. ^ [7] "John G. Roberts, Jr. Fact Sheet" La Lumiere School.
  85. ^ "NEWSMEAT ▷ John G Roberts's Federal Campaign Contribution Report". August 5, 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  86. ^ "Judge Roberts". Judge Roberts. Archived from the original on July 23, 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-07. 
  87. ^ "Report of the Alliance for Justice: Opposition to the Confirmation of John G. Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit". Archived from the original on October 1, 2005. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  88. ^ "SSRN-Not Hearing History: A Critique of Chief Justice Robert's Reinterpretation of Brown by Joel Goldstein". Retrieved 2010-08-07. 

External links[edit]

Nomination and confirmation
Legal offices
Preceded by
James Buckley
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
Succeeded by
Patricia Millett
Preceded by
William Rehnquist
Chief Justice of the United States
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Boehner
as Speaker of the House of Representatives
Order of Precedence of the United States
as Chief Justice of the United States
Succeeded by
Jimmy Carter
as Former President