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Aspen Ideas Festival: Joan Biskupic, author of 'The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts'

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Supreme Court justices in November 2018
The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court gather for a formal group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington on Nov. 30, 2018. Seated from left: Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. Standing from left: Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Elena Kagan and Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.
J. Scott Applewhite | AP Photo file

Is the current chief justice of the United States a conservative activist or a neutral umpire concerned first and foremost with preserving the institution of the Supreme Court? 

Joan Biskupic says he may be a bit of both. 

She is a journalist and author who has known and observed Roberts for two decades. Biskupic says Roberts is torn between two, often divergent, priorities: to carry out a conservative agenda and to protect the court’s image and his place in history.

When named to the highest spot on the court, Roberts was the youngest chief justice in more than 200 years. What does his leadership mean for the court, the constitution and the future of the country? 

He has expressed concern about the polarization in the country, and stresses the importance of compromise as he tries to bring his colleagues together. Biskupic said Roberts did not want to see lots of 5-4 decisions, and would like to see a lot more unanimous decisions. 

Joan Biskupic spoke with legal historian Jeffrey Rosen on June 29, 2019, at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo. Rosen is president and CEO of the National Constitution Center and professor of law at Georgetown. Biskupic is legal analyst for CNN.