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Chief Justice John Roberts was briefly hospitalized in June after a fall

Chief Justice John Roberts was briefly h...

Posted: Jul 8, 2020 7:09 AM

Chief Justice John Roberts was briefly hospitalized on June 21 after falling while walking near his home, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

"The Chief Justice was treated at a local hospital on June 21 for an injury to his forehead sustained in a fall while walking for exercise near his home," said Kathy Arberg, public information officer for the Supreme Court. The fall happened at the Chevy Chase Club, according to a source familiar with the matter.

"The injury required sutures, and out of an abundance of caution, he stayed in the hospital overnight and was discharged the next morning. His doctors ruled out a seizure. They believe the fall was likely due to light-headedness caused by dehydration."

The Washington Post was first to report that Roberts had gone to the hospital. Roberts was taken to Suburban Hospital, a source with direct knowedge told CNN.

The Supreme Court did not issue any statement to the media in the days after Roberts fell. Arberg says she responded Tuesday night after an inquiry from the Post.

When asked why the public had not been told of the incident earlier, Arberg told CNN, "The injury was not significant; he stayed overnight out of an abundance of caution and went home first thing in the morning.

The fall came three days after Roberts sided with the court's liberal justices to block the Trump administration's attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on June 18 and six days after he sided with the liberals in a case that extended anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ workers.

Roberts is 65. He has reported having two previous seizures -- one in 1993 and another 2007.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were informed about the 1993 seizure when they were considering Roberts' nomination to be chief justice in 2005, but they did not think it was significant enough to bring up during his confirmation hearings, then-Sen. Arlen Specter, who chaired the panel at the time, told CNN after Roberts' 2007 seizure.

"We knew but we didn't draw a heavy breath on it," Specter told CNN at the time.

The Supreme Court said in a statement after the 2007 incident that doctors had called the episode a "benign idiopathic seizure," similar to the one suffered by the chief justice in 1993. An idiopathic seizure is one with no identifiable physiological cause.

The news comes as the court is racing to finish up the term. Five cases remain, including two concerning President Donald Trump's bid to shield his financial documents. The court is due to release opinions at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The justices have not been on the bench as they are working remotely.

Roberts and other federal judges, who have lifetime tenure, are not required to divulge information about their health or medical conditions.

And while Roberts has been largely private about his own health, other justices, like four-time cancer survivor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, have been open about their medical struggles.

She said last year she'll "stay on the job" as long as she can "do it full steam."

"I was OK this last term. I expect to be OK next term," Ginsburg said at the time. "And after that we'll just have to see."

But Roberts has long tried to avoid the national spotlight -- something that proved nearly impossible as he presided over the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate earlier this year.

And Roberts has found similar attention again in recent weeks in the wake of his striking rulings siding with the court's four liberal justices.

These recent actions reflect his broader choice, in the tumultuous time of coronavirus and racial strife during an election year, to put the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court over personal ideology.

Roberts, whose Washington career traces to the Reagan administration in the 1980s, has always held conservative instincts and social values. Only in very rare instances has he broken from those moorings.

This story has been updated with additional information Tuesday.

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