Chief Justice Roberts Visits Jackson Center

, The Associated Press

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Chief Justice Roberts
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts addresses a crowd of more than 2,000 from the front porch of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown on May 17.

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. - U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts may need a bigger suitcase for his return to Washington following a visit to his native western New York for the 10th anniversary of a center dedicated to the late Justice Robert H. Jackson.

Jackson's grandchildren presented Roberts with a gift intended for the entire high court, a life-size bronze bust of Jackson.

"It will occupy a place of great prominence at the court," Roberts promised after accepting the bust on May 17, "just as his portrait does."

And at a May 16 reception with Jackson Center board members and community officials, Roberts was presented with a framed lithograph of Jackson.

Roberts, who was born in Buffalo and lived there until the fourth grade, spent about 20 minutes on May 17 addressing a crowd of more than 2,000, most of them schoolchildren, from the front porch of the center in Jamestown. He stayed away from the weighty topics pending before the court, such as gay marriage, reflecting instead on the changes it has undergone since Jackson's day, from serious ones like the diversity of the justices down to the shape of their mahogany bench and the offerings in the public cafeteria.

John Barrett, a professor at St. John's University School of Law who is writing a biography of Jackson, noted in a 2005 blog post that Roberts said in testimony for his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that he admired "the common sense and pragmatism of Jackson."

Jackson lived and practiced in Buffalo for a year early in his career. Both he and Roberts served in the Solicitor General's Office of the U.S. Department of Justice, Jackson as the agency's head. Both men argued dozens of cases in the Supreme Court before joining the bench.

Jackson served on the Supreme Court from 1941 to 1954 after getting his start as a country lawyer in western New York. He took a leave from the bench to oversee the Nuremberg Trials following World War II. The center was dedicated 10 years ago by Roberts' predecessor, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had been a law clerk under Jackson. Roberts was a law clerk under Rehnquist.

"For some lawyers and judges, the law is merely a way of earning a wage, and others cannot see beyond shaping a pattern according to precedent," Roberts said in his address. "But some inspired lawyers and judges, like Justice Jackson, have understood that they are participating in a loftier enterprise. The Jackson Center is an enduring monument to that ideal."

Following the address, Representative Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, delivered to the center's co-founder, Gregory Peterson, a framed bill, signed into law, that named a newly constructed federal courthouse in Buffalo after Jackson.

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