Chief Justice John Roberts’ Politics: Is He Democrat or Republican?

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Getty Chief Justice John Roberts pictured with his wife, Jane.

Chief Justice John Roberts became the youngest person to lead the Supreme Court in more than 200 years when he became Supreme Court Chief Justice at the young age of 50. He later presided over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial and now is administering the oath of office for President-elect Joe Biden. Is Roberts a Democrat or a Republican? Here’s a look at his political beliefs.


He’s Politically Conservative Personally, But Not Always in His Rulings

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GettyGeorge W. Bush announces his nomination of John Roberts in 2005.

Chief Justice John Roberts was appointed to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush after Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist died. He is often described as being politically conservative. His conservative ideas developed while serving during the Reagan years, The Atlantic reported. But he’s never identified fully with the Federalist Society like Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, or others.

Personally, he seems to lean Republican, The New York Times reported in 2005. According to the New York Times, Roberts advised Gov. Jeb Bush during the controversial presidential vote recount in 2000 that took place in his state. Jeb ultimately recused himself, since the recount involved his own brother. Roberts has also contributed a bit to Republicans over the years. However, reports indicate that more of his money was donated to his law firm’s PAC that supported both Democrats and Republicans.

Roberts was raised in the Catholic faith and is still Catholic. At 13, he asked an elite Catholic Boarding School to admit him, saying, “I’ve always wanted to stay ahead of the crowd. … I want to get the best job by getting the best education,” The Atlantic reported.

Today, Roberts attends church with his family and they go to soccer games together, The Huffington Post reported in 2012. Friends told The New York Times that he would not let his faith affect his approach to the law.


He Sees a Justice As Being More Like an Umpire

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Getty(Front L-R) Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Jr., (Back L-R) Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh

He feels that the Court should not be used as a political tool. He once said that a judge should be like a baseball umpire calling “balls and strikes,” not deciding who wins, The Atlantic reported.

Roberts has said that he doesn’t have one approach to constitutional interpretation that he always uses, The New York Times reported. Instead, he follows the approach best suited for a particular case.

A liberal professor of constitutional law told The New York Times in 2005 that he didn’t remember Roberts as being particularly conservative politically, but he was conservative in “manner … and in approach.”

Joan Biskupic, who wrote a biography about Roberts, once said that Roberts is an enigma who has an ideological desire to move the court to the right, but also wants the court to be seen as nonpolitical.


Despite His Conservative Views, He Has Been Known to Cross Party Lines

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GettyWASHINGTON – JANUARY 20: Barack H. Obama shakes the hand of Chief Justice John Roberts after his swearing in as the 44th president of the United Statesas on the West Front of the Capitol as his wife Michelle looks on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama becomes the first African-American to be elected to the office of President in the history of the United States.

His rulings show that he often defers to executive authority and military authority, The Atlantic reported. He’s conservative on reproduction questions, and tends to not be supportive of regulating the economy or of government-run health care. In 2012, he agreed that the individual mandate of Obamacare was “unconstitutional.” But he also joined liberals in deciding that mandate was allowable as part of Congress’ taxing power, it just wasn’t constitutional as an extension of the commerce power. So, at times, he can bring differing opinions together and he has been known to cross party lines.


He Wasn’t Afraid to Contradict Trump, But He Also Backed Trump Too

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Getty Chief Justice John Roberts walks with his wife Jane Roberts and their children Jack Roberts and Josie Roberts at the Supreme Court after he took the Supreme Court bench for the first time October 3, 2005 in Washington, DC. Roberts replaced William H. Rehnquist as the new Chief Justice.

John Roberts hasn’t been afraid to contradict Trump when he felt that it was required. The Atlantic reported that at one point, in response to Trump saying that a decision by Judge Jon S. Tigar wasn’t law because he was an ‘Obama judge,’ Roberts said: “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

However, he’s also backed Trump on some controversial things. In 2018, he upheld a so-called anti-Muslim travel ban. You can read his opinion here.

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