Roberts, John Glover, Jr.

Roberts, John Glover, Jr., 1955–, American public official, 17th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (2005–), b. Buffalo, N.Y., grad. Harvard (B.A. 1976, J.D. 1979). He clerked (1980–81) for Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist before serving in the Reagan administration as special assistant to the attorney general (1981–82) and associate counsel to the president (1982–86). From 1986 on, he was in private practice except for the years he served under President George H. W. Bush as principal deputy solicitor general (1989–93). His nominations to the U.S. court of appeals by President G. H. W. Bush in 1992 and President George W. Bush in 2001 were not voted on, but he was renominated in 2003 and confirmed.

In 2005 he was nominated by President G. W. Bush to the Supreme Court and, after Rehnquist's death several months later, was then named and confirmed as chief justice. Intelligent with a sharp legal mind, Roberts was an advocate of conservative positions in the Reagan and Bush administrations but was nonetheless a relative unknown judicially at the time of his confirmation to the Supreme Court because of the short time he had served on the appeals court. Although the Roberts court has been markedly conservative and pro-business, in some cases reversing earlier precedence, and Roberts has generally been in the conservative majority or minority, he diverged from expectation when he upheld (2012) the Affordable Care Act's requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance. By 2018, when appointments to the court by President Trump had given the court a solid conservative majority, Roberts himself had become the court's swing vote.

See biography by J. Biskopic (2019); L. Tribe and J. Matz, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (2014).

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