John Roberts is U.S. President Bush’s nominee for the first vacancy in eleven years on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. He has been nominated to replace Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Till date Roberts has had a scandal-free career. The United States Supreme Court has a scattered history of members of the bench who held extremist or controversial views. But Roberts is hailed as a popular man without any extremist leanings among all his acquaintances. He is said to be a balanced, brilliant and a ‘regular’ guy. The fact that he has had an extraordinary academic and professional record only adds to his reputation. The Democrats and the liberal activists are yet to find something they can use to object to this conservative nominee. They have reserved their statements while the media has already passed him for the exalted post.
Many previous Justices of the US Supreme Court belied the beliefs of the Presidents who nominated them. So it would be prudent not to predict the future course of action of John Roberts after his appointment. He will be treading uncharted waters and laying out a new path for future generations as a member of the US Supreme Court bench. Justices of the US Supreme Court are appointed for life and are answerable only to each other.
Roberts was born in Buffalo, N.Y., and raised in Long Beach, Ind. That he was a very intelligent boy was very apparent from the beginning. What was also very apparent was that he didn’t flaunt his intelligence. He is described intelligent and understanding. Through his school years he was involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities like sports, newspaper, and drama. He is remembered as a very observant boy who could absorb information to the smallest detail. Harvard was the next stop for him after graduating from high school. Here he again left his mark as an intelligent young man without the need to parade his intelligence. He put in a lot of hard work as managing editor of the Law Review. He did his apprenticeship with Judge Henry Friendly following Harvard, who was known for his careful opinions and for being mindful of legal precedents. This was followed by a coveted clerkship with Justice William Rehnquist.
Roberts has played both sides of the court, literally! Just as he plays squash with both hands, he is adept at arguing both sides of any issue.
That is why it is so difficult to stamp him with an ideology. He is said to be very good at arguing cases and winning his arguments. When he doesn’t win he takes his defeat well. He is quiet but forceful, and argues without hurting egos. It is apparent once again that he does not believe in parading his intellect in the court.
At 50 years John Roberts would be the youngest of all Supreme Court Justices where the average age is around 65. He started early when George H.W. Bush supported him for the bid for District of Columbia Court of Appeals in 1992 at the age of 36.The bid finally succeeded in 2003. Meanwhile he was a very successful corporate lawyer. He touched all political platforms during his career without committing himself to one. He has been a conservative in his life and actions and has always kept a low profile. Jane Roberts, his wife, is also a lawyer who specialises in satellite technology law. They have adopted two children.
John Roberts also has the advantage of knowing all the Justices of the Supreme Court very well through fighting his cases in the court. It is unlikely that he will feel uncomfortable among the older and experienced members of the bench. He would also bring young blood to the bench and fresh ideas through involvement with his young children.
The cases facing the court now deal more with business and corporate issues rather than social issues. His experience with corporate law will be a big help in dealing with those issues. The issues Roberts will support will become clear only in the future. How he will affect the court’s chemistry is still to beseen. His past can only be an indication to his future.