ILNews

SCOTUS chief visits law school as part of lecture series

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share


The chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States was warmly greeted by a full house April 7 at Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis at the annual James P. White Lecture on Legal Education.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.'s discussion was just two days before Justice John Paul Stevens announced he would retire from the court when the session ends this summer.

Gary Roberts, dean of the Indianapolis law school, said he was unsure how or if he was related to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. when he welcomed the audience to what he quipped was the second-toughest ticket in town that week, after the NCAA men's Division 1 championship basketball game of Butler vs. Duke.

A capacity crowd of approximately 250 prominent members of Indiana's legal community participated in the discussion in the school's courtroom while about 120 students watched a simulcast of the event as part of their class, and 50 other students, alumni, and faculty were in an overflow room watching the simulcast as well. Not to mention anyone who was watching a live webcast of the event.

C-SPAN also was on hand to film the discussion, which will likely air on the cable channel a few times in the coming weeks and eventually will be available on its Web site.

In his introduction, Chief Justice Roberts also pointed out various audience members, including Indiana Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeals and trial court judges, federal judges, various I.U. executives, the mayor of Indianapolis, the Indiana attorney general, and the lecture's namesake, a retired law professor who is known around the world for his work in the field of legal education.

During the lecture about the history of the court - comparing the Supreme Court of 2010 to 1910 and explaining the changes along the way, Chief Justice Roberts explained how these changes have, over time, strengthened the judiciary, including the public's perception of it.

For instance, the current federal courthouse wasn't built yet in 1910, and the court would meet in the Capitol Building instead. But having the architectural separation makes a difference when maintaining the ideal of the separation of powers of the judiciary, legislative, and executive branches, the chief justice said.

The architectural separation was also maintained recently when it was discussed whether there should be a way for visitors to go from the Capitol to the Supreme Court using underground tunnels. It was ultimately decided that visitors would need to physically leave the Capitol and cross the street to avoid any confusion that the two were closely linked.

He also explained the change in trial procedures including the length of time for oral arguments: in 1910, each side had 90 minutes. Currently, an entire oral argument lasts an hour.

It was also around 1910 when what is now known as the Brandeis Brief was first used when then-litigator and later Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis started using social science data and other reports in his legal briefs, which hadn't been done before then.

In 1910, when the court had a caseload of more than 1,100 cases, he said, the court was required to make a decision about every case appealed to them. It wasn't until 1925 that former president and then Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft convinced Congress to relieve SCOTUS from this requirement so they could only focus on cases with national significance. Today, the court grants cert to only about 150 cases each year.

Following his history of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roberts took questions from the audience.

U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker asked if he would ever consider taking on a U.S. District Court case by sitting in designation, and if she offered him her entire docket, what would he choose.

He answered that he wouldn't do it "in a million years," but he would prefer a civil case because he wouldn't want to handle a criminal case where he would need to stick with federal sentencing guidelines.

He also told the story of how his predecessor William H. Rehnquist missed working at the trial level and presided over a case in the Eastern District of Virginia. He added then-Chief Justice Rehnquist was annoyed not that the 4th District Court of Appeals overturned his ruling but that the court didn't sign off on the decision so he didn't know who overturned him.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller asked the chief justice how his Indiana roots have affected him; Chief Justice Roberts was raised in northern Indiana and was a summer clerk for Ice Miller while a student at Harvard Law School.

"I'm very proud of my Midwestern roots," he said, adding people from the Midwest have a "certain openness" and prefer a "unifying approach" to disagreements.

Chief Justice Roberts said he was able to see the handwritten notes of Abraham Lincoln for the only time Lincoln argued before the SCOTUS, adding that Lincoln had remarkable penmanship.

Other audience members also asked if he thought judges were treated like celebrities, to which he replied that Judge Judy might be a celebrity but he isn't; if he thought he approached his role in ways he didn't think he would before becoming chief justice, to which he replied he hadn't; and if he still stood by his analogy of the chief justice to that of a baseball umpire, to which he replied that he did.

After addressing the courtroom audience, Chief Justice Roberts spoke with students who watched the simulcast in the overflow room and answered eight of their questions, according to Elizabeth Allington, director for external affairs for the law school. Earlier in the day, he met with students in their classes and had lunch with faculty members.

The chief justice is the third Supreme Court justice to speak at the annual lecture and the fifth SCOTUS justice to speak at the law school in the last nine years.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

  2. wow is this a bunch of bs! i know the facts!

  3. MCBA .... time for a new release about your entire membership (or is it just the alter ego) being "saddened and disappointed" in the failure to lynch a police officer protecting himself in the line of duty. But this time against Eric Holder and the Federal Bureau of Investigation: "WASHINGTON — Justice Department lawyers will recommend that no civil rights charges be brought against the police officer who fatally shot an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, Mo., after an F.B.I. investigation found no evidence to support charges, law enforcement officials said Wednesday." http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/us/justice-department-ferguson-civil-rights-darren-wilson.html?ref=us&_r=0

  4. Dr wail asfour lives 3 hours from the hospital,where if he gets an emergency at least he needs three hours,while even if he is on call he should be in a location where it gives him max 10 minutes to be beside the patient,they get paid double on their on call days ,where look how they handle it,so if the death of the patient occurs on weekend and these doctors still repeat same pattern such issue should be raised,they should be closer to the patient.on other hand if all the death occured on the absence of the Dr and the nurses handle it,the nurses should get trained how to function appearntly they not that good,if the Dr lives 3 hours far from the hospital on his call days he should sleep in the hospital

  5. It's a capital offense...one for you Latin scholars..

ADVERTISEMENT