Interview With Chief Justice Roberts

JAN CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Well, thank you for sitting down with me tonight for this very intimate conversation about your life and the law before 3,000 members of the U family, I guess, we have here tonight.

I thought that we could start by looking back to the summer of 2005. Justice O'Connor had just announced her retirement and the president was getting ready to make his first nomination to the Supreme Court, and you got on a plane and went to London.

CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Yes. Yeah, I was so confident of my prospects that I decided to leave the country.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: So you were teaching a class.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I was. I was teaching a class at University College in London and I got a call that I needed to come back. They asked if I could come back for an interview with the president. It turns out I could and Thursday, got on a plane and came back for the interview on Friday. Saturday, flew back to London to pick up my teaching responsibilities and Sunday night got a call that I needed to be on the first plane back Tuesday morning.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Now when you left on Saturday, you left DC, no one said, you know, 'don't go,' so did you think then…?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, I didn't know how quickly they were going to make their decision. I very much enjoyed the interview with the president, but I didn't leave feeling I was going to have a new job.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: How long did it last?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The interview? A good bit more than an hour, not two hours, but more than an hour.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And did you have a sense of what he was looking for or what kind of qualities he…?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: First of all, I very much enjoyed it. It surprised me. He has a wonderful way of putting people at ease. I felt very comfortable talking with him. I was very impressed by the points he was making and the kind of questions he was asking, and I left feeling very upbeat, not so much about my chances, but about the process and the sort of things that the president was interested in.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: What was an example of a question he asked?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, I haven't talked to anybody about what actually happened during the interview and I don't think I should. I think that's a private matter between the president and me.

But from the point of view, I was a judge at the time and a lawyer who practiced a lot before the Supreme Court, and I thought the sort of issues he was raising were exactly the kind of things you'd want someone who had the responsibility of making this appointment to be focusing on.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Okay so then you flew back to London on Saturday, then you said you got the phone call the next day?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: The next day, that I needed to be on the first flight back Tuesday. So I kind of scrambled. I had to teach the class Monday morning and got up at 3:30 in the morning London time Tuesday to catch the first flight out of Heathrow. Now, I don't know if you all remember, but in 2005 was when they had the very horrible subway bombings in London and where I was teaching was right near there. So it was cordoned off and I was coming back for good. I only had a couple more classes, so I wasn't going to come back.

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