The Chief

Title: The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts
Published by: Basic Books
Release Date: March 26, 2019


An incisive biography of the Supreme Court’s enigmatic Chief Justice, taking us inside the momentous legal decisions of his tenure so far

John Roberts was named to the Supreme Court in 2005 claiming he would act as a neutral umpire in deciding cases. His critics argue he has been anything but, pointing to his conservative victories on voting rights and campaign finance. Yet he broke from orthodoxy in his decision to preserve Obamacare. How are we to understand the motives of the most powerful judge in the land?

In The Chief, award-winning journalist Joan Biskupic contends that 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. Biskupic shows how Roberts’s dual commitments have fostered distrust among his colleagues, with major consequences for the law. Trenchant and authoritative, The Chief reveals the making of a justice and the drama on this nation’s highest court.

Praise & Reviews

“Delving into the mystery of the Supreme Court and its Chief Justice, Joan Biskupic - perhaps the best Supreme Court reporter in the country -- offers a rare and incisive look at the most powerful judge in America. At this crucial time for the Court and country, THE CHIEF offers the first-ever, in-depth look at this important, enigmatic man, exploring the chasm between reputation and reality and bringing us behind the scenes to see how a jurist who seems so steady and in charge often struggles to win his colleagues’ confidence and trust.”
Jake Tapper, host of The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN

“Joan Biskupic, with clear writing and a deep understanding of her subject, serves as an invaluable guide into the style and substance of Chief Justice John Roberts and his uneven leadership of a polarized and right-leaning Supreme Court. The Chief is a revelation that comes at just the right time.”
David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer

"This fascinating book is an act of public service: with deep insight and experience, with clarity and sensitivity, Joan Biskupic illuminates the life and mind of a man who wields, in his quiet but determined way, immense power. Biskupic portrays a Chief Justice increasingly at odds with himself -- a man deeply devoted to the Court as an impartial institution, but deeply committed to the conservative project of rolling back the rights revolution of previous generations. 'The Chief' is essential reading as John Roberts leads the Court, and with it the nation, through one of the most consequential and contentious eras in its history."
Jeff Shesol, author of Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court

“Joan Biskupic has written the definitive account of the consummate lawyer and deft politician at the helm of our nation’s judiciary. Avoiding legal jargon while steering clear of slogans and stereotypes, Biskupic paints a highly readable and deeply informative three-dimensional portrait of the man whom fate has placed front and center in an unfolding drama bound to shape American life for decades to come.”
Laurence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law, Harvard University

“Joan Biskupic draws on meticulous reporting and deep knowledge of the Supreme Court to bring us a fascinating real-time portrait of Chief Justice John Roberts, one of the country's most powerful but least known individuals, a man now in a unique position to shape the law in the age of Trump.”
Linda Greenhouse, lecturer at Yale Law School and former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent