Chief justice juggles 2 jobs in overseeing trial
Washington – Chief Justice John Roberts is starting to juggle two jobs as the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump gets underway.
On Tuesday morning, he donned his black robe and oversaw two arguments at the Supreme Court before heading across the street to the U.S. Capitol where he is presiding over the trial in the Senate chamber. His busy schedule meant he didn’t have time to join his fellow justices for a group lunch, a high court custom following arguments.
Over the past 14 years, he has gotten comfortable in the role of chief justice of the United States, but presiding over Trump’s trial will be a new, public role for Roberts, who is used to proceedings that aren’t televised as they are in the Senate.
It is only the third presidential impeachment trial in U.S. history, coming just weeks before the first primaries of the 2020 election season and as voters are assessing Trump’s first term and weighing the candidates who want to challenge him in the fall.
Roberts’ added responsibilities shouldn’t affect the work of the court. That’s because the justices generally finish their joint business in the mornings, giving Roberts time to preside over oral arguments and lead the justices’ regularly scheduled private conferences before beginning his Senate duties in the afternoon.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said in written responses to questions from reporters that it’s expected to be “business as usual” at the court during the trial.
And if there’s a good time in Roberts’ schedule to take on added responsibility, this is it, since it’s a relatively quiet time at the court. After one more oral argument scheduled for Wednesday, the court is taking its standard break from oral arguments until late February.
It’s not until later in the spring that it gets to be crunch time for opinion writing for the justices, who finish their work in June before adjourning for the summer. The court did acknowledge it scheduled only one argument Wednesday instead of the more standard two in anticipation of a possible impeachment trial. That made Roberts’ day at the court shorter.
Trump’s trial could be over by the time oral arguments resume at the Supreme Court on Feb. 24 – but maybe not. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a quick conclusion, though there could be delays. If the trial stretches into five weeks, Roberts would be expected to be with his fellow justices in the morning and lawmakers in the afternoon.