Player of the week: Chief Justice John Roberts

The Supreme Court’s ruling this week on President Obama’s healthcare reform law will be a defining moment for Chief Justice John Roberts. 

The decision will be forever remembered as coming from the Roberts court, whether the law is upheld or scrapped. 

Big cases have marked the history of the Supreme Court and its chief justices. Warren Burger, the chief justice appointed by President Nixon, sided with the majority in Roe v. Wade. Similarly, Chief Justice William Rehnquist is best remembered for the Bush v. Gore ruling.

Roberts, who swore President Obama into office, is expected to play a major role in the fate of the health law, which required an enormous amount of the president’s political capital to pass Congress. 

Some Democrats are holding out hope that Roberts will side with the administration. After all, he attracted the approval of 22 Senate Democrats during his 2005 confirmation vote. Obama was not among them. 

Roberts has called himself an “umpire,” a jurist who simply calls balls and strikes. 

Unlike Justice Antonin Scalia, Roberts appeared even-handed during oral arguments on the health law in March.

Democrats also noticed that Roberts sided with Justice Anthony Kennedy and liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor on the court’s ruling on Arizona’s border-security law. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has predicted the health overhaul will be held up on a count of 6-3, which would probably mean Roberts and Kennedy joining forces with the left-wing justices.

Still, the administration did not perform well during oral arguments and most legal experts expect the court to strike down all, or some, of the law.

Roberts, 57, will serve many more years as chief justice. But it is hard to imagine that many of the rulings from the bench he leads will be more historic than this one.