Youth Justice

I was watching the announcement last week that Justice John Roberts would be nominated to the position of Chief Justice of the United States upon the passing of the late Chief Justice Rehnquist, and I thought that he looked quite young.

I checked, and it turns out that he is, in fact, 50 years of age. He is not a greenhorn by any stretch of the imagination, but as the following list of Chief Justices of the U.S. indicates, if Justice Roberts is confirmed by the Senate, he will be the youngest person to become Chief Justice since 1801. Here is the list, with their age as of the date they became C.J.U.S.:

John Jay - 43
John Rutledge - 56
Oliver Ellsworth - 50
John Marshall - 45 (his appointment as Chief Justice was effective on 4 February 1801)
Roger B. Toney - 59
Salmon C. Chase - 56
Morrison R. Waite - 58
Melville W. Fuller - 55
Edward D. White - 65
William H. Taft - 63
Charles E. Hughes - 67
Harlan F. Stone - 68
Frederick M. Vinson - 56
Earl Warren - 62
Warren E. Burger - 61
William H. Rehnquist - 61
John Roberts - 50 (assuming confirmation)

I am not saying this is a bad thing. From what little I know of Justice Roberts, he seems to be a good choice. It also looks like he will, in fact, be confirmed, although I expect that he may be given a rough time by Senate Democrats at his confirmation hearing (moreso now that he has been nominated for Chief Justice, as opposed to when he was nominated for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's position). Of course, it is possible that something unexpected may arise during the course of the hearings before the Senate vote, but I expect that most of the firepower will be directed towards the President's next choice.

So, we will have a Chief Justice who, barring ill health or accidents, could serve for 30 years or more (recall that Chief Justice Rehnquist was just a few days short of his 81st birthday when he died - and he was still serving as Cheif Justice).

On a related point: I'm not particularly sold on the sort of confirmation hearings they have in the States. On the other hand, I also have some concerns regarding the backroom process we have in Canada. At times like this, I wonder if it is possible to find a "best of both worlds" process that would avoid the sometimes-sideshow atmosphere of US hearings, while shedding some light and openness on what is a closed-door process in Canada. What do you folks think?

More later.


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