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Holding Court

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. spent nearly an hour Tuesday taking questions from Walt Whitman High School government teacher Robert Mathis and a group of students. Some of his responses:

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• On whether televising Supreme Court arguments would educate the public about the court:

"It's not our job to educate the public. Our job is to decide vitally important cases under the Constitution."

• On whether Bush v. Gore deciding the 2000 presidential election was properly decided:

"You're acting like a senator now and asking me the sort of questions I can't answer."

• On whether he considers public opinion or takes it into consideration when making decisions:

"Never and no. The idea is we're supposed to be there to act contrary to public opinion when the Constitution requires it. . . . That's one reason we're there for life."

• On arguing 39 cases in front of the court before joining it, the most of any current justice:

"I once literally had more than 100 questions [posed by justices] in a half-hour. . . . It's easier to ask the questions than answer them."

• On why Clarence Thomas has not asked a question in more than two years.

"Different justices take a different approach. . . . He has said he likes to listen to the arguments rather than interrupt the lawyers."

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