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Sam Penrod ReportingThe Supreme Court's Chief Justice John Roberts was in Utah today.
Roberts spoke at Brigham Young University. You might say Justice Roberts gave a lecture on the history and importance of the U.S. Constitution.
He talked about what he says is his favorite article in the Constitution: the establishment of the judicial branch of government.
Justice Roberts is the youngest Chief Justice in two centuries, and he brought his ideas on the Constitution to BYU. "The framers' great innovation: an independent judiciary with the final say on what the constitution means in a manner that binds the government and the governed has withstood the test of time," said Roberts.
He says it's critical the judiciary act independent of public or political pressure to preserve the Constitution's integrity. He said, "Judges must have the courage to make unpopular decisions. That is the sole reason they enjoy the privilege of life tenure, to better enable them to fulfill the framers vision of a society governed by a rule of law. I think the nature of the Supreme Court jurisdiction helps the court to properly interpret the constitution as law and avoid intruding on the political prerogatives of the other branches."
Students lined up to ask Justice Roberts questions, but many of the questions involve cases that are before the Supreme Court. "It's an awfully tough thing being a judge. If a case is under consideration, you can't talk about it, and once they are decided the opinion speaks for itself, so you can't talk about it. So we don't have much to talk about I guess," said Roberts.
But Roberts pointed out that unlike Congress and the president, the high court doesn't push its ideas; rather justices respond to important issues brought to them. "We don't control the agenda, and as Hamilton said, ‘We don't have the power of the purse and don't have the power of the sword. We are dependent upon the other branches in carrying out our decisions and judgments,'" Robert said.
Justice Roberts also paid tribute to the late Rex Lee, a former president of BYU and an attorney who argued against Justice Roberts in a case many years ago that was before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Roberts said he lost his case to Lee in the high court, and to make it worse, it was a unanimous decision against him.