Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts holds candid conversation at U of M

A sold-out crowd filled out Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota for an inside look into the most powerful court in the United States. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts spoke for nearly an hour to an audience of more than 2,000 people as part of the law school's lecture series Tuesday night.

“What motivated me to go to law school is that there weren’t a lot of jobs for history teachers,” said Chief Justice Roberts.

It was a night of open and candid conversation with the leader of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As Chief Justice, you hold the rein of power, but if you tug on it too tightly you’ll find out it’s not attached to anything,” said Chief Justice Roberts.

Serving as Chief Justice for 13 years, John Roberts weighs in on cases that shape society.

“That’s not our job, to educate people,” he said. “Our job is to carry out our role under the Constitution to interpret the Constitution and laws, according the rule of law.”

The Chief Justice’s appearance was planned before the highly publicized confirmation hearings for the Court’s newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

“I thought that I would spend a moment or two, touching upon the contentious events in Washington of recent weeks; I will not criticize the political branches, we do that often enough in our opinions,” he said. 

Roberts opened up about his duties, the Constitution and the judicial process.

“I’d like to think, and I’m sure this is an area in which I don’t succeed all the time, that the opinions are accessible,” said Chief Justice Roberts. “They don’t need to know the nuances, but if they can read an opinion and say at the end, OK, I understand what the issue was, I understand how it came out, and I have some idea as why - that’s what I’m writing for.”

Unlike the divide on Capitol Hill, Roberts says that all nine justices make an effort to work together, before handing down an opinion on some of the country’s most landmark lawsuits. Some decisions he admits, have come easier than others. 

“I’m sure I made mistakes,” he said. “It’s a human enterprise and no one is going to be perfect. I’m sure among my decisions in the past there are some that aren’t right, but second thoughts and looking back on them? No.”