Constitutional FAQ Answer #143 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #143

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Q143. “What are the duties of the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court?”

A. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is only mentioned once in the
Constitution. The mention indicates that the Framers assumed there would be a
Chief, and that the Chief would have more to do than the one thing; but beyond
the one Constitutional duty, the Constitution is silent about the Chief. The
one thing, by the way, is buried in Article 1,
Section 3
: the Chief Justice presides over any impeachment trial involving
the President.

That having been said, the Chief Justice does have other duties,
but they are by law, rule, or tradition, and not a part of the Constitution. In
the Supreme Court, the Chief has one vote, just like any other justice. If the
Chief is in the majority on any vote, he decides who writes the opinion of the
majority (this duty falls to the most senior justice of the majority if the
Chief is in the minority). The Chief begins questioning in oral arguments and
sits in the center of the array of justices in Court. He also is the “chair”
of the conferences the justices have in closed session. The Chief is the
person who traditionally swears in presidents at inaugural ceremonies. The
Chief is also the head of the federal judiciary, and is often at the phalanx
calling for things like raises for federal judges and more security in federal

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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