John G. Roberts Biography

Chief Justice of the United States

John G. Roberts
Chief Justice of the US John G. Roberts, Jr. Getty Images

John Glover. Roberts, Jr. is the current and 17th Chief Justice of the United States serving on and presiding over the United States Supreme Court. Roberts began his tenure on the court on September 29, 2005, after having been nominated by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the U.S. Senate following the death of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Based on his voting record written decision, Roberts is considered as having a conservative judicial philosophy and taking a literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution

Birth, Early Life, and Education:

John Glover Roberts, Jr. was born Jan. 27, 1955, in Buffalo, New York, to John Glover Roberts and Rosemary Podrasky. In 1973, Roberts graduated at the top of his high school class from La Lumiere School, a Catholic boarding school in LaPorte, Indiana. Among other extracurricular activities, Roberts wrestled and was captain of the football team and served on the student council.

After graduating from high school, Roberts was accepted into Harvard University, earning his tuition by working in a steel mill during the summer. After receiving his bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in 1976, Roberts entered Harvard Law School and graduated magna cum laude from law school in 1979.

After graduating from law school, Roberts served as a law clerk on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for one year. From 1980 to 1981, he clerked for then-associate justice William Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court. From 1981 to 1982, he served in the Ronald Reagan administration as a special assistant to U.S. Attorney General. From 1982 to 1986, Roberts served as associate counsel to President Reagan. 

Legal Experience:

From 1980 to 1981, Roberts served as a law clerk to then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist on the United States Supreme Court. From 1981 to 1982, he served in the Reagan administration as a Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith. From 1982 to 1986, Roberts served as Associate Counsel to the President Ronald Reagan.

After a brief stint in private practice, Roberts served in the George H. W. Bush administration as Deputy Solicitor General from 1989 to 1992. He returned to private practice in 1992.


On July 19, 2005, President George W. Bush nominated Roberts to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court created by the retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Roberts was the first Supreme Court nominee since Stephen Breyer in 1994. Bush announced Roberts's nomination in a live, nationwide television broadcast from the East Room of the White House at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

Following the September 3, 2005, death of William H. Rehnquist, Bush withdrew Roberts' nomination as O'Connor's successor, and on September 6, sent the United States Senate notice of Roberts' new nomination to the position of Chief Justice.

Senate Confirmations:

Roberts was confirmed by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 78-22 on Sept. 29, 2005, and was sworn in hours later by Associate Justice John Paul Stevens.

During his confirmation hearings, Roberts told the Senate Judiciary Committee that his philosophy of jurisprudence as not “comprehensive” and that he did “not think beginning with an all-encompassing approach to constitutional interpretation is the best way to faithfully construe the document.” Roberts compared the job of a judge to that of a baseball umpire. “It's my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat,” he said.

Serving as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States, Roberts is the youngest to hold the post since John Marshall became Chief Justice over two hundred years ago. Roberts received more Senate votes supporting his nomination (78) than any other nominee for Chief Justice in American history.

Personal Life

Roberts is married to the former Jane Marie Sullivan, also an attorney. They have two adopted children, Josephine ("Josie") and Jack Roberts. The Roberts are Roman Catholic and currently live in Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.

John G. Roberts Fast Facts

  • Full Name: John Glover Roberts Jr.
  • Known for: 17th Chief Justice of the United States
  • Born: January 27, in Buffalo, New York
  • Parents: John Glover Roberts and Rosemary Podrask
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Education: Harvard University (BA, Juris Doctor)
  • Key Accomplishments:
    - Deputy Solicitor General of the United States (1989-1993)
    - Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (2003-2005)
    - Confirmed as 17th Chief Justice of the United States (September. 29, 2005)\
  • Wife: Jane Sullivan
  • Children: Josephine ("Josie") and Jack
  • Notable Quotation: “You can't fight for your rights if you don't know what they are.”