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The chief justice of the United States is the
chief judge A chief judge (also known as chief justice, presiding judge, president judge or administrative judge) is the highest-ranking or most senior member of a court or tribunal with more than one judge. The chief judge commonly presides over trials and he ...
of the
Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases that invo ...

Supreme Court of the United States
and the highest-ranking officer of the U.S. federal judiciary. Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution grants
plenary power A plenary power or plenary authority is a complete and absolute power to take action on a particular issue, with no limitations. It is derived from the Latin term ''plenus'' ("full"). United States In United States constitutional law, plenary po ...
to the
president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Ar ...
to nominate, and with the
advice and consent Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bills and in other legal or constitutional contexts. It describes either of two situations: where a weak executive branch of a government enacts something previousl ...
of the
United States Senate The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the House of Representatives being the lower chamber. Together they compose the national bicameral legislature of the United States. The composition and powe ...
, appoint "Judges of the supreme Court", who serve until they resign, retire, are impeached and convicted, or die. The existence of a chief justice is explicit in Article One, Section 3, Clause 6 which states that the chief justice shall preside on the impeachment trial of the president. The chief justice has significant influence in the selection of cases for review, presides when
oral arguments Oral arguments are spoken presentations to a judge or appellate court by a lawyer (or parties when representing themselves) of the legal reasons why they should prevail. Oral argument at the appellate level accompanies written briefs, which also adv ...
are held, and leads the discussion of cases among the justices. Additionally, when the court renders an opinion, the chief justice, if in the majority, chooses who writes the court's opinion. When deciding a case, however, the chief justice's vote counts no more than that of any other justice. Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 designates the chief justice to preside during presidential impeachment trials in the Senate; this has occurred three times. While nowhere mandated, the presidential oath of office is by tradition typically administered by the chief justice. The chief justice serves as a spokesperson for the federal government's judicial branch and acts as a
chief administrative officer A chief administrative officer (CAO) is a top-tier executive who supervises the daily operations of an organization and is ultimately responsible for its performance. Government and non-profit A CAO is responsible for administrative management of ...
for the federal courts. The chief justice presides over the
Judicial ConferenceThe Judicial Conference of the United States, formerly known as the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges, was created by the United States Congress in 1922 with the principal objective of framing policy guidelines for administration of judicial courts ...
and, in that capacity, appoints the director and deputy director of the Administrative Office. The chief justice is an ''ex officio'' member of the Board of Regents of the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), also known simply as The Smithsonian, is a trust instrumentality of the United States composed as a group of museums and research centers. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of kno ...
and, by custom, is elected
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the ''cancellarii'' of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the ''cancelli'' or lattice work ...
of the board. Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, 17 people have served as chief justice, beginning with
John Jay John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat, Founding Father, abolitionist, negotiator, and signatory of the Treaty of Paris of 1783. He served as the second Governor of New York and the first Chief ...
(1789–1795). The current chief justice is
John Roberts John Glover Roberts Jr. (born January 27, 1955) is an American lawyer and jurist who serves as the chief justice of the United States. Roberts has authored the majority opinion in several landmark cases, including ''Shelby County v. Holder'', ' ...

John Roberts
(since 2005). Five of the 17 chief justices—
John Rutledge John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – July 23, 1800) was an American politician and jurist who served as one of the original Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and as its second Chief Justice. Additionally, he served as the first President ...
,
Edward Douglass White Edward Douglass White Jr. (November 3, 1845 – May 19, 1921) was an American politician and jurist from Louisiana. He was a United States Senator and the ninth Chief Justice of the United States. He served on the Supreme Court of the United Stat ...
,
Charles Evans Hughes Charles Evans Hughes Sr. (April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948) was an American statesman and politician who served as the 11th Chief Justice of the United States from 1930 to 1941. A member of the Republican Party, he was also the 36th Governor of ...
,
Harlan Fiske Stone Harlan is a given name and a surname which may refer to: Surname *Bob Harlan (born 1936 Robert E. Harlan), American football executive *Bruce Harlan (1926–1959), American Olympic diver *Byron B. Harlan (1886–1949), American politician *Byron G. ...
, and
William Rehnquist William Hubbs Rehnquist ( ; October 1, 1924 – September 3, 2005) was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, as an associate justice from 1972 to 1986 and as Chief Justice from 1986 unti ...

William Rehnquist
—served as associate justice prior to becoming chief justice.


Origin, title, and appointment

The United States Constitution does not explicitly establish an office of chief justice but presupposes its existence with a single reference in Article I, Section 3, Clause 6: "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside." Nothing more is said in the Constitution regarding the office. Article III, Section 1, which authorizes the establishment of the Supreme Court, refers to all members of the court simply as "judges". The
Judiciary Act of 1789 The Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, ) was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article III, Section 1 of ...

Judiciary Act of 1789
created the distinctive titles of ''Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States'' and ''Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States''. In 1866, Salmon P. Chase assumed the title of ''Chief Justice of the United States,'' and Congress began using the new title in subsequent legislation. The first person whose Supreme Court commission contained the modified title was
Melville Fuller Melville Weston Fuller (February 11, 1833 – July 4, 1910) was an American politician, lawyer, and judge who, from 1888 to 1910, served as the eighth chief justice of the United States. Born in Augusta, Maine, Fuller established a legal pr ...
in 1888. The associate justice title was not altered in 1866 and remains as originally created. The chief justice, like all
federal judges Federal judges are judges appointed by a federal level of government as opposed to the state/provincial/local level. Brazil In Brazil, federal judges of first instance are chosen exclusively by public contest. Judges of Federal Courts of Appeal or ...
, is nominated by the president and confirmed to office by the U.S. Senate. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution specifies that they "shall hold their Offices during good Behavior." This language means that the appointments are effectively for life and that once in office, a justice's tenure ends only when the justice dies, retires, resigns, or is removed from office through the impeachment process. Since 1789, 15 presidents have made a total of 22 official nominations to the position. The salary of the chief justice is set by Congress; the current (2021) annual salary is $280,500, which is slightly higher than that of associate justices, which is $268,300. The practice of appointing an individual to serve as chief justice is grounded in tradition; while the Constitution mandates that there be a chief justice, it is silent on the subject of how one is chosen and by whom. There is no specific constitutional prohibition against using another method to select the chief justice from among those justices properly appointed and confirmed to the Supreme Court. Three
incumbent The incumbent is the current holder of an office or position, usually in relation to an election. For example, in an election for president, the incumbent is the person holding or acting in the office of president before the election, whether s ...
associate justices have been nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate as chief justice: Edward Douglass White in 1910, Harlan Fiske Stone in 1941, and William Rehnquist in 1986. A fourth,
Abe Fortas Abraham Fortas (June 19, 1910 – April 5, 1982) was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1965 to 1969. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Fortas graduated from Yale ...
, was nominated to the position in 1968 but was not confirmed. As an associate justice does not have to resign his or her seat on the court in order to be nominated as chief justice, Fortas remained an associate justice. Similarly, when Associate Justice
William Cushing William Cushing (March 1, 1732 – September 13, 1810) was one of the original five associate justices of the United States Supreme Court; confirmed by the United States Senate on September 26, 1789, he served until his death. His Supreme Court t ...
was nominated and confirmed as chief justice in January 1796 but declined the office, he too remained on the court. Two former associate justices subsequently returned to service on the court as chief justice.
John Rutledge John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – July 23, 1800) was an American politician and jurist who served as one of the original Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and as its second Chief Justice. Additionally, he served as the first President ...
was the first. President Washington gave him a
recess appointment In the United States, a recess appointment is an appointment by the president of a federal official when the U.S. Senate is in recess. Under the U.S. Constitution's Appointments Clause, the President is empowered to nominate, and with the advice ...
in 1795. However, his subsequent nomination to the office was not confirmed by the Senate, and he left office and the court. In 1930, former Associate Justice
Charles Evans Hughes Charles Evans Hughes Sr. (April 11, 1862 – August 27, 1948) was an American statesman and politician who served as the 11th Chief Justice of the United States from 1930 to 1941. A member of the Republican Party, he was also the 36th Governor of ...
was confirmed as chief justice. Additionally, in December 1800, former Chief Justice John Jay was nominated and confirmed to the position a second time but ultimately declined it, opening the way for the appointment of
John Marshall John Marshall (September 24, 1755July 6, 1835) was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835. Marshall remains the longest-serving chief justice and fourth-longest serving jus ...
.


Powers and duties

Along with his general responsibilities as a member of the Supreme Court, the chief justice has several unique duties to fulfill.


Impeachment trials

Article I, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the chief justice shall preside over the Senate trial of an
impeached Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body or other legally constituted tribunal initiates charges against a public official for misconduct. Impeachment may be understood as a unique process involving both political and legal element ...
president of the United States. Three chief justices have presided over presidential impeachment trials: Salmon P. Chase ( 1868 trial of Andrew Johnson), William Rehnquist ( 1999 trial of Bill Clinton), and John Roberts ( 2020 trial of Donald Trump). All three presidents were acquitted in the Senate. Although the Constitution is silent on the matter, the chief justice would, under Senate rules adopted in 1999 prior to the Clinton trial, preside over the trial of an impeached vice president. This rule was established to preclude the possibility of a vice president presiding over their own trial.


Seniority

Many of the court's procedures and inner workings are governed by the rules of protocol based on the
seniority Seniority is the state of being older or placed in a higher position of status relative to another individual, group, or organization. For example, one employee may be senior to another either by role or rank (such as a CEO vice a manager), or by h ...
of the justices. The chief justice always ranks first in the
order of precedence An order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance and can be applied to individuals, groups, or organizations. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments, for very formal and state oc ...
—regardless of the length of the officeholder's service (even if shorter than that of one or more associate justices). This elevated status has enabled successive chief justices to define and refine both the court's culture and its judicial priorities. The chief justice sets the agenda for the weekly meetings where the justices review the petitions for
certiorari In law, ''certiorari'' is a court process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court or government agency. ''Certiorari'' comes from the name of an English prerogative writ, issued by a superior court to direct that the record of th ...
, to decide whether to hear or deny each case. The Supreme Court agrees to hear less than one percent of the cases petitioned to it. While associate justices may append items to the weekly agenda, in practice this initial agenda-setting power of the chief justice has significant influence over the direction of the court. Nonetheless, a chief justice's influence may be limited by circumstances and the associate justices' understanding of legal principles; it is definitely limited by the fact that he has only a single vote of nine on the decision whether to grant or deny certiorari. Despite the chief justice's elevated stature, his vote carries the same legal weight as the vote of each associate justice. Additionally, he has no legal authority to overrule the verdicts or interpretations of the other eight judges or tamper with them. The task of assigning who shall write the opinion for the majority falls to the most senior justice in the majority. Thus, when the chief justice is in the majority, he always assigns the opinion. Early in his tenure, Chief Justice John Marshall insisted upon holdings which the justices could unanimously back as a means to establish and build the court's national prestige. In doing so, Marshall would often write the opinions himself and actively discouraged dissenting opinions. Associate Justice William Johnson eventually persuaded Marshall and the rest of the court to adopt its present practice: one justice writes an opinion for the majority, and the rest are free to write their own separate opinions or not, whether concurring or dissenting. The chief justice's formal prerogative—when in the majority—to assign which justice will write the court's opinion is perhaps his most influential power, as this enables him to influence the historical record. He may assign this task to the individual justice best able to hold together a fragile coalition, to an ideologically amenable colleague, or to himself. Opinion authors can have a large influence on the content of an opinion; two justices in the same majority, given the opportunity, might write very different majority opinions. A chief justice who knows the associate justices well can therefore do much—by the simple act of selecting the justice who writes the opinion of the court—to affect the general character or tone of an opinion, which in turn can affect the interpretation of that opinion in cases before lower courts in the years to come. The chief justice chairs the conferences where cases are discussed and tentatively voted on by the justices. He normally speaks first and so has influence in framing the discussion. Although the chief justice votes first—the court votes in order of seniority—he may strategically pass in order to ensure membership in the majority if desired. It is reported that:


Presidential oath

The chief justice has traditionally administered the presidential oath of office to new U.S. presidents. This is merely custom, and is not a constitutional responsibility of the chief justice. The Constitution does not require that the presidential oath be administered by anyone in particular, simply that it be taken by the president. Law empowers any federal or state judge, as well as notaries public, to administer oaths and affirmations. The chief justice ordinarily administers the oath of office to newly appointed and confirmed associate justices, whereas the seniormost associate justice will normally swear in a new chief justice. If the chief justice is ill or incapacitated, the oath is usually administered by the seniormost member of the Supreme Court. Seven times, someone other than the chief justice of the United States administered the oath of office to the president. Robert Livingston, as chancellor of the state of New York (the state's highest ranking judicial office), administered the oath of office to
George Washington George Washington (February 22, 1732, 1799) was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to vi ...

George Washington
at his first inauguration; there was no chief justice of the United States, nor any other federal judge prior to their appointments by President Washington in the months following his inauguration.
William Cushing William Cushing (March 1, 1732 – September 13, 1810) was one of the original five associate justices of the United States Supreme Court; confirmed by the United States Senate on September 26, 1789, he served until his death. His Supreme Court t ...
, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, administered Washington's second oath of office in 1793.
Calvin Coolidge Calvin Coolidge (born John Calvin Coolidge Jr.; ; July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was an was an American lawyer and politician, who became the 30th president of the United States in 1923 and served until 1929. A Republican lawyer from New En ...

Calvin Coolidge
's
father A father is the male parent of a child. Besides the paternal bonds of a father to his children, the father may have a parental, legal, and social relationship with the child that carries with it certain rights and obligations. An adoptive father ...
, a notary public, administered the oath to his son after the death of Warren Harding. This, however, was contested upon Coolidge's return to Washington, and his oath was re-administered by Judge Adolph A. Hoehling, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
John Tyler John Tyler (March 29, 1790January 18, 1862) was the tenth president of the United States, holding office from 1841 to 1845 after briefly serving as the tenth vice president in 1841; he was elected vice president on the 1840 Whig ticket with ...

John Tyler
and
Millard Fillmore Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800March 8, 1874) was the 13th president of the United States, serving from 1850 to 1853, the last to be a member of the Whig Party while in the White House. A former member of the U.S. House of Representatives fro ...

Millard Fillmore
were both sworn in on the death of their predecessors by Chief Judge
William Cranch William Cranch (July 17, 1769 – September 1, 1855) was a United States Circuit Judge and Chief United States Circuit Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia; the 2nd Reporter of Decisions of the Supreme Court of the U ...

William Cranch
of the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia. and
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt Jr. ( ; October 27, 1858 – January 6, 1919), often referred to as Teddy or his initials T. R., was an American statesman, conservationist, naturalist, historian, and writer, who served as the 26th president of the Unite ...

Theodore Roosevelt
's initial oaths reflected the unexpected nature of their taking office. On November 22, 1963, after the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. Kennedy served a ...
, Judge Sarah T. Hughes, a federal district court judge of the
United States District Court The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal judiciary. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in district courts, each of which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States ...
for the Northern District of Texas, administered the oath of office to Vice President aboard the presidential airplane.


Other duties

Since the tenure of
William Howard Taft William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857March 8, 1930) was the 27th president of the United States (1909–1913) and the tenth Chief Justice of the United States (1921–1930), the only person to have held both offices. Taft was elected preside ...

William Howard Taft
, the office of chief justice has moved beyond just
first among equals ''Primus inter pares'' ( grc, πρῶτος μεταξὺ ἴσων, ) is a Latin phrase meaning first among equals. It is typically used as an honorary title for someone who is formally equal to other members of their group but is accorded unoffi ...
. The chief justice also: *Serves as the head of the federal judiciary. *Serves as the head of the
Judicial Conference of the United StatesThe Judicial Conference of the United States, formerly known as the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges, was created by the United States Congress in 1922 with the principal objective of framing policy guidelines for administration of judicial courts ...
, the chief administrative body of the United States federal courts. The Judicial Conference is empowered by the
Rules Enabling Act The Rules Enabling Act (ch. 651, , ) is an Act of Congress that gave the judicial branch the power to promulgate the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Amendments to the Act allowed for the creation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and ot ...
to propose rules, which are then promulgated by the Supreme Court (subject to disapproval by Congress under the
Congressional Review ActThe Congressional Review Act (CRA) is a law that was enacted by the United States Congress under House Speaker Newt Gingrich as Subtitle E of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996 () and signed into law by President Bill Clinton on March ...
), to ensure the smooth operation of the federal courts. Major portions of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. Civ. P.; colloquially FRCP) govern civil procedure in United States district courts. The FRCP are promulgated by the United States Supreme Court pursuant to the Rules Enabling A ...
and
Federal Rules of Evidence First adopted in 1975, the Federal Rules of Evidence codify the evidence law that applies in United States federal courts. In addition, many states in the United States have either adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence, with or without local vari ...
have been adopted by most state legislatures and are considered canonical by American
law school A law school (also known as a law centre or college of law) is an institution specializing in legal education, usually involved as part of a process for becoming a lawyer within a given jurisdiction. Law degrees Argentina In Argentina, lawy ...
s. *Appoints sitting federal judges to the membership of the
United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, also called the FISA Court) is a U.S. federal court established and authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to oversee requests for surveillance w ...
, a "secret court" which oversees requests for surveillance warrants by federal police agencies (primarily the
FBI The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States and its principal federal law enforcement agency. Operating under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice, the ...
) against suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United States. (''see ''). *Appoints sitting federal judges to the membership of the
United States Alien Terrorist Removal Court The United States Alien Terrorist Removal Court is a special court consisting of five Article III judges, selected by the Chief Justice of the United States. Its job is to determine whether aliens (non-citizens) should be deported from the United S ...
, a special court constituted to determine whether aliens should be deported from the United States on the grounds that they are terrorists. *Appoints the members of the
Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation The United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (J.P.M.L. or the Panel) is a special body within the United States federal court system which manages multidistrict litigation. It was established by Congress in 1968 by , and has the a ...
, a special tribunal of seven sitting federal judges responsible for selecting the venue for coordinated pretrial proceedings in situations where multiple related federal actions have been filed in different judicial districts. *Serves as an ''ex officio'' member of the Board of Regents and as the chancellor of the
Smithsonian Institution The Smithsonian Institution ( ), also known simply as The Smithsonian, is a trust instrumentality of the United States composed as a group of museums and research centers. It was founded on August 10, 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of kno ...
. *Supervises the acquisition of books for the
Law Library Leo T. Kissam Memorial Library, the law library of the federal depository library ">Federal Depository Library Program">federal depository library A law library is a special library used by law students, lawyers, judges and their law clerks, hi ...
of the
Library of Congress The Library of Congress (LC) is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress and is the ''de facto'' national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. The libra ...
. Unlike Senators and Representatives, who are constitutionally prohibited from holding any other "office of trust or profit" of the United States or of any state while holding their congressional seats, the chief justice and the other members of the federal judiciary are not barred from serving in other positions. John Jay served as a diplomat to negotiate the
Jay Treaty The Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation, Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, commonly known as the Jay Treaty, and also as Jay's Treaty, was a 1794 treaty between the United States and Great Britain that averted ...
, Robert H. Jackson was appointed by President Truman to be the U.S. prosecutor in the
Nuremberg trials#REDIRECT Nuremberg trials {{redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation{{R from move ...
of leading Nazis, and
Earl Warren Earl Warren (March 19, 1891 – July 9, 1974) was an American politician and jurist who served as 30th governor of California from 1943 to 1953 and Chief Justice of the United States from 1953 to 1969. The "Warren Court" presided over a major s ...

Earl Warren
chaired
the President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy The President's Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, known unofficially as the Warren Commission, was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson through on November 29, 1963, to investigate the assassination of United States Presi ...
.


Disability or vacancy

Under , when the chief justice is unable to discharge his functions, or when that office is vacant, the chief justice's duties are carried out by the most senior associate justice until the disability or vacancy ends. Currently,
Clarence Thomas Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George H. W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate to succeed Thurgood Marshall, and is the second Af ...
is the most senior associate justice.


List of chief justices

Since the Supreme Court was established in 1789, the following 17 men have served as chief justice:


Notes


References


Further reading

* * *Flanders, Henry
''The Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court''
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874 at
Google Books Google Books (previously known as Google Book Search and Google Print and by its code-name Project Ocean) is a service from Google Inc. that searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text using optical ...
. * * * *


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Chief Justice Of The United States Legal professions Supreme Court of the United States people
1789 establishments in the United States {{EstcatCountry, the United States, United States United States ...