Chief Justice John Roberts
Since his nomination in 2005, Chief Justice John Roberts has led the Supreme Court with an emphasis on preserving the court's legitimacy as a government institution. He has often said the Supreme Court must be an independent entity separate from politics.
Over the last nearly quarter century, he has encouraged his associate justices to work as a team to arrive at narrow unanimous decisions rather than broad partisan votes that split the court 5-4. This institutionalist vision has defined Roberts' tenure as Chief Justice and has led him to be an important swing vote in many cases.
Education and Clerkships
Justice Roberts graduated first in his high school class of 1973 from La Lumiere School, a Catholic boarding school in LaPorte, Indiana. He received a bachelor's degree summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1976 and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1979.
He served as a law clerk for Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1979 to 1980. Subsequently, he served as a law clerk for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1980 term.
During the Reagan administration, Justice Roberts served as a Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith from 1981 to 1982. From 1982 to 1986, he served as Associate Counsel to President Reagan under White House Counsel Fred Fielding. From 1989 to 1993, he was the Principal Deputy Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Justice.
President George H.W. Bush nominated Justice Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1992, but the nomination expired after Bush lost re-election.
He then moved on to private practice, where he was a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Hogan & Hartson. He headed the firm's appellate practice and argued a number of cases before the Supreme Court.
Justice Roberts was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2003. Two years later, President George W. Bush nominated him as Chief Justice of the United States, and he took his seat on September 29, 2005.
Chief Justice Roberts authored the court's decisions in many important cases, including:
- Citizens United v. Federal Exchange Commission (Corporate campaign financing)
- Trump v. Hawaii (President Trump's ban on travel from mainly Muslim countries)
- NFIB v. Sebelius (Affordable Care Act individual mandate)
- Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (Freedom of religion)
Under Roberts, the Supreme Court has trended toward siding with religious institutions in First Amendment cases.