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A New Term, a New Chief Justice for Court

After a ceremony, Roberts presides over oral arguments in a workplace lawsuit.

October 04, 2005|David G. Savage | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. raised his right hand Monday morning and pledged to "do equal right to the poor and to the rich" in a formal ceremony attended by President Bush, Cabinet members, senators, his family and friends.

Then, less than an hour later, he got down to the business of the Supreme Court, as the justices heard arguments in a labor-management dispute involving slaughterhouse workers.

At issue is whether the workers deserve to be paid for the time it takes them to put on required protective gear and walk to the work site.

Judges in Maine and Washington state took different sides on what federal laws require. The Supreme Court took up the cases to resolve the matter.

Roberts, attentive and businesslike, asked brief questions during the hourlong arguments to clarify points raised by the lawyers for each side. As is often the case, it was not apparent how the justices were likely to rule, and the answer might not come for a few months.

The first case of the Roberts court made for a decided contrast to the ceremony that preceded it -- and the weeks leading up to the confirmation of the new chief justice.

On Thursday, hours after the Senate confirmed his nomination, Roberts took the oath of office at the White House so he could start work.

His investiture as the 109th justice on the Supreme Court came Monday at 9:15 a.m.

With the president in attendance, the clerk of the court read a formal proclamation in which Bush appointed Roberts, with the consent of the Senate, to be the chief justice.

At age 50, Roberts is the youngest person to hold the post since John Marshall was confirmed in 1801 at the age of 45.

As the ceremony began, Roberts sat in a chair that belonged to Marshall. After the proclamation was read, he was called to the bench while the other eight justices stood.

Roberts swore to "administer justice without respect to persons." Then the senior member of the court, 85-year-old Justice John Paul Stevens, wished him "a long and happy career in our common calling."

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