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Chief Justice Roberts Statement

Read excerpts from the opening statement of John G. Roberts, Jr., at his confirmation hearing for Chief Justice of the United States.


“…Judges and Justices are servants of the law, not the other way around.  Judges are like umpires. Umpires don’t make the rules, they apply them. The role of an umpire and a judge is critical.  They make sure everybody plays by the rules, but it is a limited role.  Nobody ever went to a ball game to see the umpire.

Judges have to have the humility to recognize that they operate within a system of precedent shaped by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath, and judges have to have modesty to be open in the decisional process to the considered views of their colleagues on the bench.

Mr. Chairman, when I worked in the Department of Justice in the Office of the Solicitor General, it was my job to argue cases for the United States before the Supreme Court.  I always found it very moving to stand before the Justices and say, “I speak for my country.” But it was after I left the Department and began arguing cases against the United States, that I fully appreciated the importance of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system.  Here was the United States, the most powerful entity in the world, aligned against my client, and yet all I had to do was convince the Court that I was right on the law, and the Government was wrong, and all that power and might would recede in deference to the rule of law.

That is a remarkable thing.  It is what we mean when we say that we are a Government of laws and not of men.  It is that rule of law that protects the rights and liberties of all Americans.  It is the envy of the world, because without the rule of law, any rights are meaningless.”

“…Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.  I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment.  If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind.  I will fully and fairly analyze the legal arguments that are presented.  I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench, and I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability, and I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat.

Senators Lugar (pdf) and Bayh (pdf) talked of my boyhood back in Indiana.  I think all of us retain from the days of our youth certain enduring images.  For me those images are of the endless fields of Indiana, stretching to the horizon, punctuated only by an isolated silo or a barn.  And as I grew older, those endless fields came to represent for me the limitless possibilities of our great land.” “…If I am confirmed, I will be vigilant to protect the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court, and I will work to ensure that it upholds the rule of law and safeguards those liberties that make this land one of endless possibilities for all Americans.”

*Excerpted from “Confirmation Hearing on the Nomination of John G. Roberts, Jr. to be Chief Justice of the United States,” Hearings before the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 109th Congress, U.S. Government Printing Office, 2005, pp 55-56.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., took his seat on the Supreme Court on September 29, 2005.