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John Roberts Sworn In as New US Chief Justice

John Roberts is now officially the Chief Justice of the United States. He took the oath of office just hours after he was confirmed by the Senate.

Justice John Paul Stevens, the longest-serving member of the high court, administered the oath.

And with that, John Roberts, a federal appellate court judge, became the 17th Chief Justice of the United States. Standing at a podium for the first time in his new role, he thanked all those involved in the confirmation process, making special mention of the Senate members from all points on the political spectrum who offered their support.

"I view the vote this morning as confirmation of what is for me a bedrock principle: judging is different from politics," he said.

The ceremony took place at the White House with members of the court, the Senate and the cabinet in attendance. President Bush looked on as history was made and spoke about the importance of the moment.

"As Judge Roberts prepares to lead the judicial branch of government, all Americans can be confident that the 17th Chief Justice of the United States will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence, and above all, a faithful guardian of the Constitution," said Mr. Bush.

At 50 years of age, John Roberts in the youngest chief justice in roughly two centuries and is expected to leave his mark on the court for decades to come.

He follows William Rehnquist, who led the Supreme Court for 19 years. Justice Rehnquist died earlier this month after a battle with cancer, and the White House presented John Roberts as a man cast in the Rehnquist mold, a conservative with a deep respect for the legal process and strong leadership skills.

The Senate largely agreed, confirming John Roberts by a vote of 78-22, completing a process the White House praised as dignified and civil.

But even as the Roberts hearings were under way, speculation was growing about the person President Bush would name to fill the other vacancy on the court, that of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

She is seen as a crucial swing vote, sometimes siding with the conservatives, sometimes with the more liberal justices. And a strong change in legal philosophy in her successor could change the ideological balance on the court.

An announcement is expected soon, now that a new chief justice is in place. White House Spokesman Scott McClellan will only talk in generalities about the selection process.

"The president is going to nominate someone who he feels is the best person for the position. He will nominate someone who will make the American people as proud as Judge Roberts has," said Mr. McClellan.

John Roberts will be in the chief justice's chair when the next Supreme Court session formally opens on Monday. Justice O'Connor said she will remain on the court until her successor is confirmed by the Senate.