One year after he suffered a seizure near his summer home in Maine, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. is not commenting on the current state of his health. In response to a series of written questions from Legal Times about possible medications or changes in lifestyle, or whether he has suffered any more seizures or other health problems, Roberts offered only a "no comment."
Last July 30, according to a press release issued that day by the Court, the chief justice experienced "minor scrapes" during a "benign idiopathic seizure" near his Hupper Island summer home. He was hospitalized overnight and released after extensive tests showed "no cause for concern." Because he had suffered a similar unexplained seizure in 1993, some medical experts said his condition fit the basic definition for epilepsy.
In his public appearances and on the bench, Roberts has shown no signs of abnormalities in the last year. But the widely publicized episode was disconcerting, and was viewed by commentators as a potentially life-changing event for the chief justice, now 53. "On a clear summer day, he became a middle-age man in need of emergency medical treatment," wrote Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times soon after the episode. "Might this encounter with illness even change the way John Roberts sees himself, his job or the world?"
But as with most other justices with health problems through history, Roberts has not offered the public the same kind of detailed medical report that has become routine for presidents and other public figures, preferring instead to let his work speak for itself.
But that is not enough, says University of Cambridge professor David Garrow, who has written extensively about the infirmities of Supreme Court justices. "Given how much public attention his seizure attracted at the time, it ill behooves both the chief justice individually, and the Court as an independent branch of government, to refuse to comment whatsoever about a genuine matter of public concern involving one of the government's top officials."