As the presiding judge in the Supreme Court, is the Chief Justice supposed to sway the opinion of the other eight Associate Justices?

I'm reading everywhere that Chief Justice Roberts Lost His Court because Roe v. Wade was overturned. I'm a simple person with a simple mind, and I'm thinking that the SC is not composed of "normal" people; they are highly-educated, extremely intelligent and well-read people.

If five Associate Justices are leaning towards an opinion, is he supposed to convince them otherwise?

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    For those that voted to close the question, can you explain why? Jun 27, 2022 at 18:25
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    You are missing what the article is trying to say, which is that other 5 right leaning members of the court no longer need his vote to get things done. For a long time Roberts could be considered the swing vote that would decide things however now his vote (as well as the 3 left leaning members) don't need to be counted on to achieve a ruling. As for the question that is a matter of opinion if he should or shouldn't be doing that.
    – Joe W
    Jun 27, 2022 at 18:52
  • @JoeW I tend to think the answer is not an opinion, it's an obvious, "Of course he should. And all the other Justices should do so, also." That does seem to me to be the job of the Justices - literally. How could they "join", "dissent", or "concur" on legal opinions without a lot of intellectual back-and-forth?
    – Just Me
    Jun 27, 2022 at 18:56
  • Hve you taken a look at the various top hits on a google search for the role of the Chief Justice? For instance, this pretty clearly shows the role as a committee head, not an influencer.
    – doneal24
    Jun 27, 2022 at 19:02
  • @JustMe If that was true it would not be the job of the chief justice but the job of every justice. Some will say the job is to influence others will say the job is to act to help keep things moving.
    – Joe W
    Jun 27, 2022 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


Almost the opposite. When straw poll voter are made and reasons are articulated for those votes in conferences of the justices, the process starts with the most junior justice and works its way up the ranks of seniority, precisely in order to prevent more senior justices from swaying the opinions of more junior justices.

The primary reason that the Chief Justice is different in role than the other justices of the U.S. Supreme Court and that this post is approved separately by the President and Senate, rather than elected by the justices themselves, is because it carries with it administrative roles. The Chief Justice is the CEO of the federal government's judicial branch administratively, as well as being a judge, and is responsible for proposing the judicial branch's budget and annual report to Congress each year, for personnel and facilities management, and for supervising the never ending process of revising federal court rules. It is a lot of extra work for a very modest additional amount in his paycheck every month.

The Chief Justice is, in fact, often not the swing vote in the Court. For a long time, for example, Justice O'Connor, and later Justice Kennedy, held that role.

Nonetheless, it is commonplace to mark eras in Supreme Court history by the period that a Chief Justice is in office, a bit like reginal years in a monarchy. This is, in part, because many Chief Justices, as firsts among equals, are known for having set a tone for the court while they served. But, it is fair to say that under the new 6-3 conservative majority, that Chief Justice Roberts is no longer serving that role.

Many observers see Chief Justice Roberts as the justice who, in part, by virtue of his additional administrative duties, is more concerned about the Supreme Court as an institution, rather than merely being concerned about the outcome of particular cases relative to his judicial philosophy. But, a majority of the court does not seem to place a high priority on preserving the legitimacy and role of the institution relative to outcomes on the merits. Prior to the recent shift in personnel on the court, he was more able to appeal to other justices from an institutional perspective.

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    "Chief Justice Roberts is no longer serving that role": but he was fairly prominently using that role until recently, in particular to engage in a program of correcting (in his view) past errors of the court while maintaining respect for precedent so as to maximize the preservation of legitimacy. His new inability to continue thus is the reason behind the headline's assertion that he has "lost his court."
    – phoog
    Jun 28, 2022 at 11:26
  • It also seems that his desire to take this path was due not only to administrative duties but also to a more statesmanlike concern for the country's constitutional order and recognition that the judiciary has the least hard power of the three branches. Respect for its legitimacy is its primary asset. Without this legitimacy, there is little to prevent the executive and legislative branches from disregarding its orders. If overturning precedent becomes easier, the law loses some of the certainty that stare decisis is supposed to provide. Roberts seems to care about these matters.
    – phoog
    Jun 28, 2022 at 11:42
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    (But, to get back to the question, there is no explicit duty for a chief justice to do so.)
    – phoog
    Jun 28, 2022 at 11:43
  • Good answer apart from the last paragraph, the Justices you are referring to would very much see themsleves as "plac[ing] a high priority on preserving the legitimacy and role of the institution", in particular by being true to the Constitution rather than what may be popular or less controversial.
    – deep64blue
    Jul 2, 2022 at 8:54

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