|America’s last prolonged look at Chief Justice John Roberts came 14 years ago, when he told senators during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing that judges should be like baseball umpires, impartially calling balls and strikes.
“Nobody ever went to a ballgame to see the umpire,” Roberts said.
His hair grayer, the 64-year-old Roberts will return to the public eye as he makes the short trip from the Supreme Court to the Senate to preside over President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. He will be in the national spotlight, but will strive to be like that umpire — doing his best to avoid the partisan mire.
“He’s going to look the part, he’s going to play the part and he’s the last person who wants the part,” said Carter Phillips, who has argued 88 Supreme Court cases, 43 of them in front of Roberts.
He has a ready model he can follow: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who never became the center of attention when he presided over President Bill Clinton’s Senate trial.
As Roberts moves from the camera-free, relative anonymity of the Supreme Court to the glare of television lights in the Senate, he will have the chance to demonstrate by example what he has preached relentlessly in recent years: Judges are not politicians.