Interview With Chief Justice Roberts

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: There were a bunch of us. As part of the judicial selection process, a bunch of people would interview candidates for judgeships and we'd ask different things.

I always tried to ask a question, a trick question of some kind, where they would think the answer you wanted, the more politically appealing answer, from your point of view, was one thing, but the answer that the law required was something else, and, of course, I always wanted to make sure that these were people who would give the answer that the law required and not perhaps the more politically appealing answer. So you'd try to find different questions that would bring that out. You'd ask other simple questions, like who their favorite justice was. That's a common question. There are no right answers, but you want to try to see if this is someone who understands the differences and perspectives of different justices and if they have a favorite, they have a good reason for it and can defend it.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Now do you remember interviewing Sam Alito?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I do, I do, yes, when he was up for the Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Do you remember who he said his favorite justice was?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: He said it was Justice Rehnquist, which was a good answer, for me. But, you know, he also had good reasons for that, as well.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And what would you say if someone asked you that question?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: You know, they did ask me that question a little over a year ago during the hearings and I find it hard to pick one justice. There are different attributes of different justices that I admire.

I wish I could write as well as Justice Jackson writes. I wish I had as a prodigious an intellect as someone like Frankfurter or Holmes. I wish I was as good at bringing people together as both Justice Brennan and Justice Rehnquist were. But pulling all those different things together in one package is a lot to ask and I certainly don't think I can do that, but there are a lot of models to emulate in those different areas.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Now during your hearings, you said that you didn't think courts should solve all of society's problems, that they should have a more restrained view. Why not? You've got these smart people, you're up there on the bench and some of these are really hard questions.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, you know, it gets back to something I mentioned earlier about last week when we voted. Think back to the framers who drafted the Constitution. These were people who literally risked everything to gain the right to govern themselves, certainly risked all their material well-being and risked their lives in the struggle for independence.

And the thought that the first thing they would do when they got around to drafting a Constitution would be to say, 'Let's take all the hard issues in our society and let's turn them over to nine unelected people who aren't politically accountable and let them decide,' that would have been the farthest thing from their mind.

I have enormous respect for the authority carried by the people across the street in Congress. Hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people have voted for them and put their confidence in their judgment.

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