Belmont College of Law hosts Chief Justice Roberts
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Belmont College of Law hosts Chief Justice Roberts

Chief Justice John Roberts knows he might not become a memorable figure in American history, but he’s still honored to serve his country.

Though Roberts knows his job is important, he also recognizes that, of the 17 chief justices in U.S. history, only a few have played memorable roles, he said.

“You’re not guaranteed to play a significant role in the history of your country, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing if you don’t.”

Roberts spoke to Nashville law students and other invited guests at an event at Belmont on Wednesday.

He was interviewed by Alberto Gonzalez, former attorney general and current dean of Belmont’s law school. Both served under the Bush administration, and Gonzalez interviewed Roberts years ago as the first step in Roberts’ appointment to the Supreme Court.

“So in my experience, nothing but good things happen when you’re interviewed by Judge Gonzalez,” Roberts said.

Part of the reason why Bush appointed Roberts was because he thought he “had the personality to bring the court together on very divisive issues,” Gonzalez said.

Though Roberts has done his best to achieve that goal — acknowledging that “some days are better than others” — he also knows his colleagues on the court each bring their own views to the table.

“But I think if you talk things out a little bit longer, from my perspective it’s easier to have a narrower decision.”

Though the public tends to view judges as conservative or liberal, a lot of the court’s decisions can’t be categorized so simply, Roberts said.

“I think I’m probably the most aggressive defender of the first amendment on the court, and I think most people might think that doesn’t quite fit.”

To simplify things for the public, Roberts wants to make sure his opinions are written in a way that even non-lawyers can understand.

“I write for my sisters,” Roberts said. “I have three sisters. They are not lawyers. They’re intelligent lay-people who are fixated on what’s going on in Washington.”

Roberts loves the work he gets to do and is grateful for the 14 years he’s been able to do it so far.

“I love the work. I love that the work I’m doing is in the service of this country that I love.”

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This article written by Joe Bendekovic and Bronte Lebo.

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