John Roberts shared the limelight on the first Monday in October with the woman who helped ease his path to confirmation as the 17th chief justice of the United States.
Even as Roberts methodically went about the business of taking his place as William H. Rehnquist’s successor on the opening day of the Supreme Court’s new term, White House legal counsel Harriet Miers was introducing herself to senators across the street as the latest high court nominee.
Cameras flashed as Miers, who had been deeply involved in the White House consultations with senators on Roberts’ nomination, posed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
For Roberts, the businesslike appellate court lawyer who steadfastly hewed to close-cropped answers at Senate hearings, the first hour in the ornate court was mostly ceremonial and well-scripted.
Before presiding over oral arguments for the first time, he was welcomed during an invitation-only investiture ceremony attended by President Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Roberts’ wife, Jane, their two children and other relatives.
A pledge to administer justice
Gonzales, dressed in a formal morning coat, brought Roberts’ commission — a poster-sized, ivory-colored document that Bush signed stating his intent to nominate Roberts to be chief justice. The document was unrolled and read in open court before Justice John Paul Stevens administered the oath to Roberts.
As the seven other justices watched, Roberts, 50, pledged to “administer justice without respect to persons” and to “do equal right to the poor and to the rich.”
Stevens, 85, then wished his much younger boss “a long and happy career in our common calling.”
After the brief ceremony, the two posed together for pictures on the Supreme Court steps before Roberts motioned for his family, waiting in the wings, to join him. As they walked over, 4-year-old son Jack ran a few steps and gazed tantalizingly at the long flight of stairs before him as if he wanted dart up them.
Jane Roberts intervened, holding his hand for a bit before he went running, arms open wide, to his father and was scooped up into a hug. A hug followed for sister, Josie, 5, then a kiss from the chief justice for his wife.
“We love you, Judge Roberts,” someone shouted from the crowd of observers that assembled in front of the Supreme Court and had been singing until he appeared. “We are praying for you and your family.”
More than an hour later, Roberts took his seat on the bench and, in businesslike fashion, welcomed a new group of lawyers to the Supreme Court bar. He presided over oral arguments in separate cases involving labor law and a Kansas case on whether states may tax motor fuel sold on Indian reservations, interrupting periodically to ask questions or advise lawyers as to when their time was up.