July 19, 2005 — -- Bush appointee John G. Roberts Jr., 50, was confirmed to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2003, and was sworn in by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, whom he had previously served as a law clerk.
Despite being called the "best Supreme Court advocate of his generation," there had been speculation that Roberts' lack of time on a federal bench -- and thus his relatively small paper trail -- might scare Bush away from nominating him to the Supreme Court, but that was proven not to be an issue.
Roberts is considered to be well-liked on Capitol Hill, and members of both parties have praised him as a man who possesses a keen intellect and a sharp legal mind.
Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Roberts is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School who argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court and won 25. He was a partner with Hogan & Hartson in Washington, D.C, where he developed a civil litigation practice, with an emphasis on appellate matters.
Roberts was principal deputy solicitor general under President George H.W. Bush, who first nominated him for the D.C. Circuit Court in 1992. He was opposed by Democrats and never received a vote. He was re-nominated in 2001, and his nomination languished until a third nomination by Bush in 2003, when he won unanimous confirmation.
He also was special assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith and served as associate White House counsel for four years under President Reagan.
While deputy solicitor general, Roberts co-signed a brief in Rust v. Sullivan that argued for a ban on federal money for clinics that provided abortions, counseled women about the procedure or referred them to a facility for an abortion. The brief went further than the question presented in the case, arguing that "we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled."
In a second abortion-related case, Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic, Roberts signed a "friend of the court" brief arguing that Operation Rescue was not engaged in a conspiracy to deprive women of their constitutional rights.
Roberts co-authored a brief that argued in favor of clergy-led prayer at public school graduations. The case was Lee v. Weisman, and the government lost.
Roberts also co-authored a brief supporting a law that criminalized flag burning. The government lost, and justices, including conservative Antonin Scalia, voted against the law.
In his role on the Court of Appeals, Roberts wrote the unanimous decision for a three-judge panel rejecting the civil rights claims brought on behalf of a 12-year-old girl who had been handcuffed, arrested and taken away by police for eating one french fry in the D.C. Metro.
He also wrote a dissent from the decision of the full D.C. Circuit not to reconsider a ruling concerning the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act as it applied to a real estate development project.
And Roberts was criticized by veterans of the Iraq war for his dissenting opinion in a lawsuit brought by 17 American soldiers against Iraq and Saddam Hussein for torturing them during the Gulf War. Roberts said the federal courts did not have jurisdiction over the case.
In private practice, Roberts represented 19 states that, along with the federal government, sought to break up Microsoft. Many of the state attorneys general were Democrats.
Roberts is a practicing Catholic. He and his wife, Jane, have two children, 5-year-old Josephine and 4-year-old Jack.