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Wednesday, March 15, 2006 

Chief Justice Roberts: Uniter, Not Divider

Law.com has an interesting article on Chief Justice John Roberts. The Chief is heaped with praise for how well the Court has run in his short tenure.
Inside the Court, employees speak of a more accessible chief justice who eats lunch in the public cafeteria from time to time. His fellow justices -- of all political stripes -- have embraced Roberts, pointing to vastly different private conferences, in which they are able to speak at greater length about pending cases than William Rehnquist ever allowed.
I've acknowledged this in the past. Chief Justice Roberts is changing the focus in the private conferences. Instead of staking out positions and taking a vote like former Chief Justice Rehnquist did, Roberts is using conversation and discussion to narrow the issue and find common ground. In a recent response comment, I said "I don't think that Roberts will persuade the other Justices away from strong ideological beliefs. However, he can persuade their decisions to be more focused. That, in effect, will temper some of those strong ideological beliefs". He's not going to talk Justice Ginsburg into overturning Roe, but he can get a decision like Ayotte v Planned Parenthood out of her (and persuade her to not write a separate opinion).

What makes Roberts so good at his new job? The same stuff that made him good at his old job...
"There's a family resemblance between a brief that is trying to persuade the Court and an opinion that reflects the views of the Court," says Thomas Baker, a professor at Florida International University College of Law who was Rehnquist's first administrative assistant as chief justice. "Someone as able as Roberts can listen carefully to his colleagues and can build and craft an opinion that brings and keeps his colleagues in the fold."
In his previous life, Roberts was one of the most successful Supreme Court litigators. He knows that Court and those Justices better than they know themselves.

And just because I want to, here's more praise for the Chief...
Off the bench, Roberts' colleagues have indicated they are happy with the new chief justice, says former Solicitor General Theodore Olson. "One of the justices told me, 'I think that he could be one of our greatest chief justices,'" Olson says, declining to name names. "Another said, 'I think he's going to be great; he's been wonderful so far.'" Olson, a partner at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, adds that justices speak about Roberts "as if he was born to be chief justice of the United States, much like Tiger Woods was born to be on a golf course."
It's going to be a great 30 years of the Roberts Court.

I provided some short quantitative analysis of the collegial start to the Roberts court here.

Excellent work. I've read other posts on your site via the comments on ConfirmThem. Good stuff.

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