Chief Justice Roberts Hospitalized in June After Head Injury


Chief Justice John Roberts was hospitalized overnight last month for an injury he suffered to his forehead after falling while walking for exercise, a U.S. Supreme Court spokeswoman said.

Roberts’s doctors believe the fall was due to lightheadedness caused by dehydration and have ruled out a seizure, spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Tuesday. Roberts, 65, has suffered from at least two seizures in the past.

“The injury required sutures, and out of an abundance of caution, he stayed in the hospital overnight and was discharged the next morning,” Arberg said in an email.

The Washington Post was the first to report that Roberts had been hospitalized. The newspaper said it received a tip that the court then confirmed. The Post said the incident happened at the Chevy Chase Club in Maryland, where Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh are members. The paper also reported that a witness said Roberts’s head was covered with blood.

Roberts, the nation’s chief justice since 2005, suffered seizures in 1993 and 2007. The more recent one occurred on a dock in Maine while he was vacationing with his family. The Supreme Court said at the time the chief justice had suffered a “benign idiopathic seizure,” meaning it was of unknown cause and wasn’t considered harmful.

The 1993 episode was reported by Newsweek magazine in August 2005, during Roberts’s Senate confirmation process. Newsweek said the incident happened while Roberts was golfing, quoting Justice Department colleague Larry Robbins as saying, “It was stunning and out of the blue and inexplicable.”

Asked why the court didn’t disclose the latest incident earlier, Arberg said, “The injury was not significant; he stayed overnight out of an abundance of caution and went home first thing in the morning.”

Roberts has not revealed any other health problems publicly.

Individual Decisions

Supreme Court justices make their own individual decisions about what medical information to release to the public, and some are more forthcoming than others.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has disclosed having cancer four times, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor has been open about her type 1 diabetes. By contrast, Chief Justice William Rehnquist provided only limited information about his thyroid cancer before he died in 2005 while still holding the post.

The revelation about Roberts comes as the Supreme Court issues the final opinions of its term. The justices on Wednesday sided with religious rights in two cases, including a decision that upholds Trump administration rules giving employers a broad right to refuse to offer birth control through their health plans. The court will be ruling Thursday on congressional and New York grand jury subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial records.

Roberts has been the pivotal voice in the court’s current term. He has mostly sided with his Republican-appointed colleagues in divisive cases but joined the liberal wing in three blockbuster cases involving abortion, LGBT job discrimination and the DACA deferred-deportation program.

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