IN A rare public appearance on the evening of November 20th, John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States, gave a talk at the New York University School of Law. The subject of the chief’s presentation was one of Mr Roberts’s predecessors: Charles Evans Hughes, the white-bearded, aquiline-nosed figure who steered the Supreme Court through the fraught New Deal era in the 1930s. Though the programme’s sponsors promised an exploration of Mr Hughes's "impact on our legal history", nary a word was heard about doctrine or jurisprudence. Specific cases were mentioned only in passing. The focus of the evening was on the whiskers and spirit of the man Teddy Roosevelt once called a “bearded iceberg” and whose career included stints as associate justice of the Supreme Court, governor of New York, secretary of state and Republican nominee for president before he was tapped by Herbert Hoover to return to the Supreme Court to take the chief's gavel in 1930.
Though clean-shaven and undoubtedly perkier than his stiff forebear, Chief Justice Roberts offered a jaunty analysis of...Continue reading