But first, Roberts took a few minutes to address the October 6 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh and concerns that Kavanaugh's politically charged Senate hearings threatens the legitimacy of the nation's highest court. Roberts was at the University of Minnesota Tuesday as part of a lecture series with the law school, an appearance scheduled long before the hearings. "After all, they speak for the people, and that commands a certain degree of humility from those of us in the judicial branch who do not", Roberts said. "They had a particular point of view, as offensive as it was, and so I wrote the opinion for the court", he said. "But we speak for the Constitution".
He says there have been times when the Supreme Court erred greatly, but that when it did so, it was because the court yielded to political pressures.
The size of the Supreme Court varied during its first 80 years from a low of six at the time the Constitution took effect in 1789 to a high of 10 during the Civil War. He cited the 1944 Korematsu decision upholding the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent.
Expanding on the importance of this independent judiciary, Roberts noted that the Supreme Court would be "very different" if it were a political tool of agendas.
"As our newest colleague put it, we do not sit on opposite sides of an aisle, we do not caucus in separate rooms, we do not serve one party or one interest, we serve one nation", Roberts said.
"I want to assure all of you", Roberts said in closing, "that we will continue to do that to the best of our abilities whether times are calm or contentious".
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
Asked whether the presence of three women on the bench has brought him a different perspective, Roberts said he wasn't sure: "I don't see any differences in their legal analysis or anything like that".
"Every single one of us needs to realize how precious the court's legitimacy is". For one thing, he said, "we do think we are in this important enterprise together". We don't have any money.
"We have to rise above partisanship and our personal relationships", Sotomayor said at a recent Princeton University event. "We have to treat each with respect and dignity and a sense of amicability that the rest of the world doesn't always share". In a conversation with law professor Robert A. Stein and answering questions from students, Roberts also touched on a number of other subjects, including cameras in the courtroom, his female colleagues and having a new member of the court.
A couple of liberal Harvard law professors are lending their name to a new campaign to build support for expanding the Supreme Court by four justices in 2021.