Students need to pay attention

After the September death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the fate of the nation’s highest court, and John G. Roberts Jr.’s place in it, has been a hot topic.But since being confirmed by the Senate last Thursday, Roberts, a conservative prot‚g‚ of Rehnquist, is filling his mentor’s position.

Roberts’ confirmation has repercussions both for today and in the future. As the youngest chief justice in two centuries, Roberts, 50, could hold this lifetime position for 30 to 40 years, or more. And with another vote still up for grabs in the Supreme Court, following moderate Sandra Day O’Connor’s pending retirement, President Bush has the potential to shape the court however he sees fit. He has already nominated one more – a woman named Harriet Miers, whose political leanings are still to be seen.

Most assuredly, Roberts will face controversial and important decisions in the next few decades. The debate over abortion, for example, is far from over, and it was a point of contention during Roberts’ Senate hearing.

Other issues Roberts may deal with include same-sex marriage, cloning and the war on terrorism.

Although Roberts’ responses about many of these topics in his Senate hearing were vague, at least one thing is clear: He’s going to be at his job for a very long time.

Students must take an active interest in Roberts’ confirmation. Over the next few decades, Roberts will make judgment calls and establish precedents that will affect every American.

Bush described Roberts as “a man with an astute mind and kind heart” who will be “a faithful guardian of the Constitution.”

Time will tell if this proves to be true.

Brian Wooddell for the Editorial Board