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John Roberts, Chief Justice?

I just saw on the news the announcement that Bush plans to nominate Roberts for Chief Justice.

While this does streamline the process, personally I think it's a mistake. It is true in the past that judges who had not been on the Supreme Court had been nominated directly to the office of Chief Justice. But there's something about having the experience of how the Court runs that I believe is invaluable. Frankly, I'd rather see any one of the current seven Justices nominated for the job.

But I guess Bush is looking to make things go more quickly. There's also talk that perhaps O'Connor will keep serving until Bush chooses a new person to nominate for her seat. Maybe he'll surprise us.


Whoa, didn't see this coming.

Although according to something I read earlier (not American, i.e. next to no knowledge of American history) that the CJ has been a newcomer a lot more times than its been an AJ promotion.
You might be right about that, although it's hard information to find. Althought there is a lot out there about the history of the Supreme Court, getting answers to specific questions (such as, "Have there ever been two simultaneous vacancies before?") is surprisingly difficult.
I just went through the list of the 16 Chief Justices I found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Justices_of_the_Supreme_Court_of_the_United_States#Justices_by_Chief_Justice

According to the list, thirteen Chief Justices were not already on the Supreme Court when appointed to the CJ position. Only White, Stone, and Rehniquist had been Associate Justices beforehand. So you're right about that, but it doesn't change my opinion. I'd still prefer the promotion of a current AJ.
Getting the National Gaurd to New Orleans: four days

Replacing Rehnquist: less than two days

Yes, someone has his priorities straight.

Most Supreme Court justices who have commented on the process (several have done so) say that they would much prefer to have a Chief Justice appointed from the outside rather than an Associate Justice elevated to the position. They say that if one of their own is suddenly elevated to the senior position, it can disrupt working relationships that have been worked out comfortably over a period of years, and make things difficult for the others. Potter Stewart declined the position when it was likely to have been offered to him, because he didn't want to deal with that.
I really do hate to respond with what will seem at first like a flip comment . . . but it's not.

Michael, based on experience at this point, I really don' t think I care for Bush's surprises . . . he truly has not impressed me in a positive way. I won't say I've lost all hope, and maybe he'll choose someone that's more evenhanded, in an effort to improve his recently faultering image. I surely hope so.
That does sound like too much too soon... wouldn't you think the chief should be someone who's actually been a judge? Although given Bush's record of thinking out decisions, I suppose it could be worse.
Roberts has been a judge for the past two years.
Sorry, must've missed that... the articles I've been reading all seem to emphasize his record as a lawyer.


Something that you're forgetting here is the number of nomination fights. You pull an AJ and try to promote him (since it would be Scalia or Thomas) to CJ, that's a nomination fight. Plus, you have Roberts replacing O'Connor, and then someone to replace the Scalia/Thomas seat. If you put in Roberts (whose nomination has really already been assured) as CJ, there's not going to be a new battle, just the same old battle. This guy is going to make it through as negative press really hasn't changed congressional or public opinions of Roberts. O'Connor said she would hang around and she will. Now, once Roberts is in, you have some momentum. If Bush decides to make a hurricane pick, it would probably be to sneak her in under the radar.

So you're looking at two nomination fights instead of three. I'm not sure that moving Scalia or Thomas to CJ would be an easy fight, but Roberts will be.

This also informs why presidents tend to name CJs from outside of the Court. You'd have to expend a lot more political capital.

We're just used to a CJ being elevated because that's the way it has been our adult lives as rehnquist was elevated 19 years ago when I was 17. Of the prior chief justices (not counting John Rutledge, who was rejected) only three (the *ed ones) were elevated:

Warren E. Burger
Earl Warren
Fred M. Vinson
Harlan Fiske Stone *
Charles E. Hughes *
William Howard Taft
Edward D. White *
Melville W. Fuller
Morrison R. Waite
Salmon P. Chase
Roger B. Taney
John Marshall
Oliver Ellsworth
John Jay

It is quite appropriate to nominate someone not on the court to be chief justice.

December 2016

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