John Roberts (Supreme Court)

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John G. Roberts
Official roberts CJ.jpg
Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Chief justice
Position:   Seat #1
Appointed by:   George W. Bush
Approval vote:   78-22
Active:   9/29/2005-Present
Chief:   9/29/2005-Present
Preceded by:   William Rehnquist
Past post:   District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Past term:   2003-2005
Personal History
Born:   1/27/1955
Hometown:   Buffalo, NY
Undergraduate:   Harvard University, 1976
Law School:   Harvard Law, 1979

John Glover Roberts, Jr. is the 17th and current chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He is the 109th justice of the court. Prior to his nomination and confirmation as a federal judge in 2003, Roberts spent more than 20 years working in Washington, D.C., in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Roberts also worked in private practice during that time.

In 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Roberts to the District of Columbia Circuit. In 2005, President Bush nominated Roberts to the Supreme Court of the United States to fill the vacancy of Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts was never confirmed to that seat. When William Rehnquist passed away on September 3, 2005, President Bush then nominated him as Chief justice of the United States. He took his seat on September 29, 2005, after a confirmation vote of 78-22.[1]

Judicial philosophy

Generally considered to be a practitioner of judicial restraint, Roberts most often votes with the conservative wing of the court. As a Chief justice, Roberts has tried to build more unanimity, working to issue fewer 5-4 decisions. In the 2013 Supreme Court session, 65 percent of the rulings were 9-0.[2][3]

Early life and education

Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 27, 1955.[4] He was raised as and continues to be a practicing Roman Catholic. He attended private schools as a child and graduated from La Lumiere School, an all-boys Roman Catholic boarding school in LaPorte, Indiana, as class valedictorian in 1973.[5][6]

Harvard College and law school

Roberts attended Harvard for both his undergraduate and law degrees. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College in 1976 after only three years, and he received his juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 1979. While at Harvard, Roberts studied history. He wrote his thesis on British liberalism in the early 20th century and graduated summa cum laude. At Harvard Law School, he served as managing editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude.[7]

Professional career

Executive branch service

Following his time as a clerk for William Rehnquist, Roberts entered into a number of executive branch appointments that saw him serve in the administrations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Reagan administration

Roberts served as special assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith from 1981 to 1982. In that role, he advised the attorney general, wrote speeches and acted as the attorney general's representative to other officials in the executive branch and state and local governments.

From 1982 to 1986, Roberts served as associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan's White House Counsel Office under Fred F. Fielding. Fielding served as white house counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Roberts' duties in the White House included reviewing bills submitted to the president by Congress, drafting and reviewing executive orders and generally reviewing the full range of presidential activities for legal problems.[8][9]

George H.W. Bush administration

Roberts served as principal deputy solicitor general in the United States Department of Justice from 1989 to 1993. As principal deputy solicitor general, Chief Justice Roberts briefed and argued a variety of cases before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of the U.S. government.[9]

Private practice

From 1986 to 1989, Roberts practiced law in Washington, D.C. as an associate at Hogan & Hartson. He made partner in 1988 while building a strong civil litigation practice focused on appellate matters. Roberts would leave the firm in 1989 to serve as principal deputy solicitor general in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He returned in 1993 to lead the firm's appellate practice group.[10]

Roberts argued his first case before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1989. As a court-appointed attorney, he successfully represented his client against the United States government in United States v. Halper, a double jeopardy case decided by a unanimous Court.[11] Roberts would ultimately argue a total of 39 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States, winning 25 of them.

Roberts was also part of the team of lawyers sent to Florida to advise Governor Jeb Bush during the 2000 presidential election recount in that state, which ultimately put the governor's brother, George W. Bush, in the White House.[12]

Supreme Court of the United States

Opinions by year

Below is a table of the number of opinions, concurrences, dissents, and splits (concur in part, dissent in part) that John G. Roberts has issued since joining the Supreme Court, according to the data on Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute.[13]

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
Opinions 1 7 8 8 8 7 8 0 0
Concurrences 0 2 0 5 3 3 0 0 0
Dissents 0 1 3 4 4 2 3 0 0
Concur in part, Dissent in part 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 0 0
Totals 1 12 11 17 17 12 11 0 0

Notable cases

For a thorough explanation of the federal healthcare act and the challenges it faced in court, see: Obamacare overview.


In the criticism of the law that followed the ruling, Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced a constitutional amendment that would mandate that every piece of legislation passed by Congress applies to every U.S. citizen and members of the House and Senate equally. In a statement about the legislation, Paul said:

My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too. See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer. And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts.[15][16]

Nomination and confirmation

Nomination Tracker
 Candidate:John G. Roberts, Jr.
 Court:Supreme Court of the United States
 Progress:Confirmed 23 days after nomination.
ApprovedANominated:September 6, 2005
ApprovedAABA Rating:Unanimously Well Qualified
ApprovedAHearing:September 12-15, 2005
ApprovedAHearing Transcript:Hearing Transcript
ApprovedAReported:September 22, 2005 
ApprovedAConfirmed:September 29, 2005
 Vote: 78-22

John Roberts was first nominated to the Supreme Court of the United States on July 19, 2005, to fill the vacancy of Sandra Day O'Connor, who had announced her intent to retire in 2005. However, President George W. Bush withdrew his nomination of Roberts to be an associate justice when Chief Justice William Rehnquist passed away on September 3, 2005. President Bush then renominated Roberts, on September 6, 2005, to be the next chief justice of the Supreme Court. President Bush requested that the Senate expedite his nomination to fill the vacancy prior to the start of the Supreme Court session beginning in early October.

During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Roberts drew comparisons between being a judge and being a baseball umpire, stating, "My job is to call balls and strikes, not pitch or bat."[19]

On September 22nd, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Roberts' nomination by a vote of 13-5, with Senators Ted Kennedy, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein casting the dissenting votes. The full Senate confirmed Roberts on September 29th on a vote of 78-22.

Oath of office

Chief Justice Roberts took the Constitutional and Judicial Oaths of Office on September 29, 2005. Associate Justice John Paul Stevens administered them.[20]

District of Columbia Court of Appeals

From 2003 until he took his seat on the Supreme Court, Roberts served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. During his two years on the bench, Roberts authored 49 opinions, two of which elicited dissents from other judges. Roberts also authored three dissenting opinions.

Nomination and confirmation

Roberts was first nominated by President George H.W. Bush to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1992. His nomination was never taken up for a vote, and he returned to private practice after President Bush lost the 1992 presidential election to President Bill Clinton.

In May 2001, Roberts received an appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit by President George W. Bush. Senator Patrick Leahy chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee for the next 19 months and refused Roberts a confirmation hearing.[21]

Roberts finally got his hearing after being renominated by President Bush in January of 2003, after the Republicans regained control of the senate. Roberts was unanimously confirmed on May 8, 2003.

Summary of judgeship and legal opinions

Roberts' time as an appellate judge generally found his rulings to be consistent with conservative philosophies. He was also considered a highly respected and fair jurist. Of his 49 opinions, only two garnered dissenting opinions. During his tenure, Roberts offered the following rulings on notable cases:

Awards and associations

The following is a list of awards and associations listed by John G. Roberts on his questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of his nomination to the Supreme Court.


  • 1976: Bowdoin Essay Prize for the best undergraduate essay in the English language
  • 1976: Phi Beta Kappa
  • 1976: Detur Prize for cumulative academic record, Harvard University
  • 1974-1976: John Harvard Scholarship, Harvard University
  • 1974: Edwards Whitaker Scholarship, Harvard University
  • 1974: William Scott Ferguson Prize for the most outstanding essay submitted by a sophomore concentrating in history, Harvard University[24]


Bar associations

Other associations

  • 2003-Present: Family Membership, Palisades Pool
  • 2000-2001: Justice Advisory Council
  • 1996-Present: The Lawyers Club of Washington
  • 1995-Present: The Metropolitan Club
  • 1992-Present: Robert Trent Jones Golf Club
  • 1991-1994: Republican National Lawyers Association
  • American Judicature Society
  • Joint Project on the Independent Counsel Statute, American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution[24]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "John Roberts Supreme Court 2015."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

John Roberts (Supreme Court) - Google News Feed

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See also

External links


  1. Supreme Court of the United States, "Biographies of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices," accessed July 11, 2014
  2. The Atlantic, "Roberts's rules," January 1, 2007
  3. New York Times, "Compromise at the Supreme Court veils its rifts," July 1, 2014
  4., "Ancestry of John G. Roberts compiled by William Addams Reitwiesner," accessed July 11, 2014
  5. La Lumiere "Notable alumni of La Lumiere School," accessed July 11, 2014
  6. New York Times, "Court nominee's life is rooted in faith and respect for law," July 21, 2005
  7. The Harvard Crimson, "Two alums may be tapped for court," July 8, 2005
  8. Time, "Bush picks a replacement for Harriet Miers," January 8, 2007
  9. 9.0 9.1 White House Archives, "Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.," accessed July 11, 2014
  10. Hogan & Hartson, "Former Hogan & Hartson partner John G. Roberts, Jr. confirmed as chief justice of the United States," archived October 9, 2008
  11. Justia, "United States v. Halper, 490 U.S. 435 (1989)," accessed July 11, 2014
  12. Los Angeles Times, "Confirmation path may run through Florida," July 21, 2005
  13. Cornell University, "WRITINGS BY JUSTICE ROBERTS," accessed July 9, 2014
  14. SCOTUSblog, "National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius," accessed July 11, 2014
  15. The Atlantic Wire, "Rand Paul wants John Roberts to sign up for Obamacare," October 21, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  17. Cornell University Law School, "Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1," accessed July 11, 2014
  18. Justia, "Hamdan v. Rumsfeld," accessed July 9, 2014
  19. CNN, "I come with 'no agenda,' Roberts tells hearing," September 13, 2004
  20. Supreme Court of the United States, "Oaths of Office Taken by the Current Court," accessed September 3, 2013
  21. Washington Times, "Pat Leahy, judiciary committee chairman?" October 16, 2006
  22. Open Jurist, "Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority," accessed July 9, 2014
  23. Open Jurist, "Rancho Viejo Llc v. A Norton," accessed July 9, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2, "Confirmation Hearing on the Nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr. to be Chief Justice of the United States," accessed July 9, 2014
Political offices
Preceded by:
William Rehnquist
Supreme Court
Seat #1
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
James L. Buckley
DC Circuit Court of Appeals
Succeeded by: