John Glover Roberts Jr. (born January 27, 1955) is the 17th and current Chief Justice of the United States. He took his seat on September 29, 2005, having been nominated by President George W. Bush after the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He has been described as having a conservative judicial philosophy in his jurisprudence.
Roberts grew up in northwest Indiana and was educated in a private school. He then attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review.
After being admitted to the bar, he served as a law clerk for Judge Henry Friendly and then Justice Rehnquist before taking a position in the Attorney General’s office during the Reagan Administration. He went on to serve the Reagan Administration and the George H. W. Bush administration in the Department of Justice and the Office of the White House Counsel, before spending 14 years in private law practice. During this time, he argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court.
In 2003, he was appointed as a judge of the D.C. Circuit by President George W. Bush, where he was serving when he was nominated to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, initially to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. When Chief Justice Rehnquist died before Roberts’s confirmation hearings began, Bush instead nominated Roberts to fill the Chief Justice position.
Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York, the son of Rosemary (née Podrasky) and John Glover “Jack” Roberts, Sr. (1928–2008). His father was a plant manager with Bethlehem Steel. He has Irish, Welsh, and Czech ancest. When Roberts was in fourth grade, his family moved to Long Beach, Indiana. He grew up with three sisters: Kathy, Peggy, and Barbara.
Roberts attended Notre Dame Elementary School, a Roman Catholic grade school in Long Beach. In 1973, he graduated from La Lumiere School, a Roman Catholic boarding school in La Porte, Indiana, where he was an excellent student and athlete. He studied five years of Latin (in four years), some French, and was known generally for his devotion to his studies. He was captain of the football team (he later described himself as a “slow-footed linebacker”), and was a regional champion in wrestling. He participated in choir and drama, co-edited the school newspaper, and served on the athletic council and the executive committee of the student council.
He attended Harvard College, graduating in 1976 with an A.B. summa cum laude in history in three years. He then attended Harvard Law School where he was the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from law school with a J.D. magna cum laude in 1979.
Roberts is one of thirteen Catholic justices—out of 111 justices total—in the history of the Supreme Court. Of those thirteen justices, six (Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Sonia Sotomayor) are currently serving. Roberts married Jane Sullivan in Washington in 1996. She is an attorney, a Catholic, and a trustee (along with Clarence Thomas) at her alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. The couple adopted two children, John (Jack) and Josephine (Josie).
Roberts suffered a seizure on July 30, 2007, while at his vacation home on Hupper Island off the village of Port Clyde in St. George, Maine. As a result of the seizure he fell 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3.0 m) on a dock near his house but suffered only minor scrapes. He was taken by private boat to the mainland (which is several hundred yards from the island) and then by ambulance to Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, where he stayed overnight, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Kathy Arberg. Doctors called the incident a benign idiopathic seizure, which means there was no identifiable physiological cause.
Roberts had suffered a similar seizure in 1993. After this first seizure, Roberts temporarily limited some of his activities, such as driving. According to Senator Arlen Specter, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee during Roberts’s nomination to be Chief Justice in 2005, senators were aware of this seizure when they were considering his nomination, but the committee did not think it was significant enough to bring up during his confirmation hearings. Federal judges are not required by law to release information about their health.
According to neurologist Marc Schlosberg of Washington Hospital Center, who has no direct connection to the Roberts case, someone who has had more than one seizure without any other cause is by definition determined to have epilepsy. After two seizures, the likelihood of another at some point is greater than 60 percent. Steven Garner of New York Methodist Hospital, who is also uninvolved with the case, said that Roberts’s previous history of seizures means that the second incident may be less serious than if this were a newly emerging problem.
The Supreme Court said in a statement that Roberts has “fully recovered from the incident” and that a neurological evaluation “revealed no cause for concern.” Sanjay Gupta, a CNN contributor and a neurosurgeon not involved in Roberts’s case, said that when an otherwise healthy person has a seizure his doctor would investigate whether the patient had started any new medications and had normal electrolyte levels. If those two things were normal, then a brain scan would be performed. If Roberts does not have another seizure within a relatively short time period, Gupta said that he was unsure if Roberts would be given the diagnosis of epilepsy. He said the Chief Justice may need to take an anti-seizure medication.
According to a 16-page financial disclosure form Roberts submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee prior to his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, his net worth was more than $6 million, including $1.6 million in stock holdings. At the time Roberts left private practice to join the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, he took a pay cut from $1 million a year to $171,800; as Chief Justice, his salary is $255,500 as of 2014. Roberts also holds a one-eighth interest in a cottage in Knocklong, an Irish village in County Limerick. His wife’s family descends from Charleville, County Cork, County Kerry, and County Fermanagh in Ireland.
In August 2010, Roberts sold his stock in Pfizer, which allows him to participate in two pending cases involving the pharmaceutical maker. Justices are required to recuse themselves in cases in which they own stock of a party.