Interview With Chief Justice Roberts

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And then the next day, you were a pallbearer and you helped carry Rehnquist's casket into the great hall of the Supreme Court?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Yes.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: How did you process, I mean, if that had been a movie, it would almost be—here you are taking your, almost too much. How did you process all that?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, you know, my own situation kind of gets put on the back burner. He was a great man who served his country very well his whole life and it was quite amazing, first, to have the opportunity to bring his casket up into the court for the last time.

I remember thinking, I know several of us did, it really was emblematic of the man. It was a plain pine casket, unvarnished, with the flag over it, of course, and that was, I thought, a very fitting tribute, because he was very straightforward and plain and very much a patriot. So it was very appropriate.

And you could tell, carrying the casket up past the other justices, the other court employees, the other clerks, how much he meant to so many of them and I was just very fortunate to be able to participate in that.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Many people have suggested that the chief justice very much looked forward to sitting on the bench with one of his former clerks. If he had lived until after you were confirmed, you two would have been sitting on the bench together. You would have taken Justice O' Connor's seat. Did you ever talk to him about that?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: We didn't talk about it, no. I had a very nice note from him, though, referring to that, just saying he was looking forward to sitting with me. CRAWFORD GREENBURG: And what were your feelings about it?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, I also was very much looking forward to it. You know, he was such an important person in my life, not only gave me the opportunity to be one of his law clerks, but I had the opportunity to argue in front of him many times. He wasn't always a friendly questioner and I certainly didn't always get his vote, but it gave me a great deal of respect for him from a different perspective, not only seeing him function as a justice, but also being an advocate in front of him was a very different perspective.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Do you ever just stop and think I am the chief justice of the United States? Has that sunk in for you?

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: You know I appreciate that it's a very important responsibility, but it's one of those things I think, if you think about it too much, it can be paralyzing. You have the job to do to try to decide the cases according to the rule of law as best as you can, to work with the other justices toward that end, and you don't want to think about it too much. But it's almost every day that it…

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: Well, it is every day.

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: … that I leave my office kind of through a side door that takes me past the formal entrance and there's a little brass plaque on the door that says "the chief justice," and I still kind of feel that I have to be a little quiet so I don't disturb him.

CRAWFORD GREENBURG: He's in there working away on cases. So, how's it changed your life? You were a lawyer, then a Federal Appellate Court Judge, do people recognize you?

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