Bench Memos

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Tina Brown on Chief Justice Roberts


Vanity Fair’s Tina Brown offers her deep insights on Chief Justice Roberts’s recent seizure:


No matter what his doctors eventually tell John G. Roberts Jr., or the world, about the diagnosis and outlook for his seizure disorder, it is clear that something changed irrevocably following the 52-year-old chief justice’s momentary loss of consciousness on a vacation island dock on Monday afternoon.

He lost his privacy, and with it the aura of invincibility that came with his youthful good looks and spectacular career path.

Barely a month ago, he was presiding over the close of a dramatic Supreme Court term in which he and his ideological allies were clearly ascendant.…


Then out of the blue, on a clear summer day, he became a middle-age man in need of emergency medical treatment, hospitalized and confronting the implications of a condition that could affect his life in big and small ways like requiring daily medication or making it inadvisable to drive a car.

In October, when he returns to his seat at the center of the Supreme Court bench, will colleagues and courtroom spectators see the same golden youth whose trajectory was unmarked by setback or sorrow? Or will they see someone suddenly vulnerable, with a medical condition that, while treatable and shared by millions, can still inspire fear?

Or to dig deeper, might this encounter with illness even change the way John Roberts sees himself, his job or the world? … Could adversity temper a jurisprudence that critics of the chief justice have discerned as bloodless and unduly distant from the messy reality of the lives of ordinary people who fail to file their appeals on time?


Oops, wait a second.  That’s actually from an article by Linda Greenhouse in today’s New York Times.  My apologies to Ms. Brown.

Tags: Whelan


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