Alum Tapped for High Court

President Bush nominates John G. Roberts '76 to post of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Courtesy CLASS Of 1976 25th anniversary report

Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. '76's College yearbook photo.

John G. Roberts ’76, a respected litigator and conservative appeals court judge, has been nominated by President George W. Bush to the post of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

If confirmed, Roberts, who also graduated from Harvard Law School (HLS) in 1979, would become the nation’s 109th justice, replacing outgoing justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who announced her retirement from the high court earlier this month.

At a prime-time televised announcement in the Cross Hall of the White House Tuesday night, Bush praised Roberts, who he hopes will be deemed acceptable to both sides of the political aisle.

“John Roberts has devoted his entire professional life to the cause of justice. And he’s widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment, and personal decency,” Bush said.

Roberts, 50, has spent the last two years as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, where he has earned a reputation as a conservative. He has, however, yet to weigh in on many of the most divisive issues that the Court may face in the coming years, including abortion and the death penalty.

His only known public statement on abortion came in a 1991 brief he signed on behalf of the first Bush administration while he was Deputy Solicitor General. The brief said that “we continue to believe that Roe [v. Wade] was wrongly decided and should be overruled.”

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Roberts has clerked for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist while Rehnquist was an associate justice, and has won over two dozen cases before the Supreme Court, earning a reputation as one of D.C.’s finest litigators.

Roberts will face nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee likely next month or in September. After those hearings, Roberts must be approved for the Court by a simple majority of senators.

If confirmed, Roberts would tint the already Harvard-packed Court a yet-deeper shade of Crimson.

Roberts would become the seventh member of the Court to attend Harvard. David H. Souter ’61 graduated from the College, while Souter, Stephen G. Breyer, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony M. Kennedy hold HLS degrees. Ruth Bader Ginsburg attended HLS for two years, while Chief Justice Rehnquist holds an M.A. from Harvard in Government.

AT FIRST A HISTORIAN

Roberts graduated from the College with a summa cum laude degree in History in only three years.

“John was a serious student,” said Robert N. Bush ’77, who was Roberts’ roommate for three years, first in Straus Hall and then in Leverett House. “There were no parties, but John did have a social life.”

The son of a steel executive, Roberts attended private school in Indiana. By the time he arrived at Harvard in the fall of 1973, he had developed a passion for history.

“John loved history, and said he’d be a history professor, but he also mentioned law,” Bush said.

Bush, who has no relation to the President, said that he has not seen Roberts since graduation. But he said he has many fond memories of life with the future nominee, which include playing Nerf football in their room and hearing Roberts endlessly quote the 18th-century literary critic Samuel Johnson.