Grad Sworn In As Court Chief

Senate confirms Roberts '76 as chief justice in 78-to-22 vote

John G. Roberts Jr. ’76 was sworn in as the seventeenth chief justice of the United States today after a 78-to-22 Senate confirmation vote, making him the first graduate of Harvard College or Harvard Law School (HLS) to lead the Supreme Court.

Roberts, 50, is the youngest person to serve as chief justice since John Marshall took office in 1801. Since Roberts will probably lead the Court for decades to come, he is in a unique position to influence the nation’s legal course.

After taking the oath of office, Roberts said he plans to work with his colleagues to “pass on to my children’s generation a charter of self-government as strong and as vibrant as the one that Chief Justice [William H.] Rehnquist passed on to us.”

Roberts also quoted nineteenth-century Secretary of State Daniel Webster, about whom he wrote a prize-winning essay as an undergraduate at Harvard.

“What Daniel Webster termed ‘the miracle of our Constitution’ is not something that happens in every generation, but every generation in its turn must accept the responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution and bearing true faith and allegiance to it,” Roberts said.

All 55 Republican senators voted to confirm Roberts, as did 22 Democrats and the Senate’s one Independent member. The remaining 22 senators, all Democrats, voted against his confirmation.

Roberts was sworn in by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House this afternoon. He will also take part in an investiture ceremony on Monday morning, at the Supreme Court, before taking his place at the center of the bench for the first time.

Roberts’ confirmation ends an arduous process that began when President Bush nominated him for a seat on the Court in late July. Earlier this month, Roberts faced four days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which sent his nomination to the Senate floor by a 13-5 vote last week.

In the days leading up to today’s vote, most experts had agreed that Roberts would face an easy confirmation.


Today’s swearing-in ceremony caps Roberts’ meteoric rise to the top of the legal world, one that began at Harvard nearly 30 years ago when he chose to attend law school instead of pursuing a Ph.D. in history.

Roberts graduated from Harvard College in three years, earning a summa cum laude degree in history. He went on to HLS, where he served as the managing editor of the Harvard Law Review and eventually graduated magna cum laude.

After his six years in Cambridge, Roberts went on to clerk for Judge Henry Friendly. Later, he clerked for then-Associate Justice Rehnquist.

Roberts subsequently served as a lawyer in the Reagan administration, as deputy solicitor general under President George H. W. Bush, and then as a private-practice attorney specializing in appellate arguments.

During the past two years, he served as a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Those who knew Roberts during his time at Harvard said they are not surprised that he attained such a high office.