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John Roberts became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after he was nominated by George W. Bush in 2005.
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In his brief tenure on the Court, Chief Justice Roberts has ruled that in certain circumstances local governments can be exempt from some procedural requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He has ruled that the exclusionary rule needn't be so broad and that some evidence can be admissible even if obtained through police negligence. Roberts wrote the majority opinion against using race as a criterion in voluntary desegregation policies,
a ruling which dissenting justices said stood Brown v. Board of Education on its head.
One of his more controversial decision came in 2010, Chief Justice Roberts concurred with Justice Kennedy in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which declared that corporations have the same rights as average citizens engaging in political speech. Critics allege that the decision ignores the vast discrepancy between a corporation's finances and average citizen and destroys years of reform efforts to limit the power of special interest groups to influence the voters. Supporters hailed the decision as a boost for the First Amendment because campaign finance reform's efforts to force equality of free speech are contrary to protecting speech from government restraint. The ruling moved President Barack Obama to criticize the court's ruling during his 2010 State of the Union address and that, in turn, prompted Roberts to characterize Obama's choice of venue to criticize the court as "very troubling."
Roberts made headlines again in June 2012, when he voted to uphold a mandate in President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (initiated in 2010), thus allowing other important pieces of the law to stay intact, including free health-screenings for certain citizens, restrictions to stringent insurance company policies, and permission for citizens under age 26 to be insured under parental plans. Roberts and four other justices voted to uphold the mandate, under which citizens are required to purchase health insurance or pay a tax—a main provision of Obama's health-care law—stating that while the mandate is unconstitutional, according to the Constitution's commerce clause, it falls within Congress' constitutional power to tax. Four justices voted against the mandate.
Chief Justice John Roberts, undoubtedly, has a significantly powerful administrative position. When the Court majority is aligned with the Chief Justice, he chooses who will write the opinion, which can determine how broad or narrow the ruling will be and set a precedent, however small, toward a particular interpretation of the law.
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The Supreme Court has presided over landmark cases that have changed the history of the United States. At times, the judges themselves have been the history makers, as in the case of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Justice; Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court; and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Here’s a look at the famous judges who have served on the United States' highest court.
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