The Chief Justice of the United States is the highest judicial officer in the United States and is the head of the Judicial Branch of the Federal government (consisting of the Federal court system as well as the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, whose director the Chief Justice appoints).

The Chief Justice is a justice of the United States Supreme Court, over which he presides. The other justices, called Associate Justices, enjoy considerable benefits based on seniority, including the right to assign the writing of an opinion in a majority if they are the senior justice in that majority. However, the Chief Justice automatically outranks all other justices on the court in this matter as well as in less substantive perks of seniority. This is true even when the Chief Justice is the Court's most junior member.

By tradition, the Chief Justice administers the Oath of Office to the President of the United States on the first day of a new presidential term, or if the Vice President of the United States or another member of the Presidential line of succession has ascended to the office upon the death or resignation of a President. The Chief Justice also administers the Oath to incoming Associate Justices as well as to other political officials on occasion. However, none of these roles are Constitutionally mandated.

What is Constitutionally mandated is that the Chief Justice preside over the United States Senate when that body is engaged in impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States. This has happened twice in US history, and both times, the Senate's normal presiding officer (President pro tempore Benjamin Wade, during the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and Vice President Al Gore, during the 1999 impeachment of Bill Clinton) would have immediately become President upon the conviction of the defendant (though both Presidents were acquitted). The Founders anticipated that this situation would create a serious conflict of interest.

The Chief Justice is often incorrectly referred to as the "Chief Justice of the Supreme Court" (or "of the United States Supreme Court," or "of the Supreme Court of the United States"). This was indeed once the office's title, but it was changed to its current form in 1864.

Joe Steele

During the rule of President Joe Steele, the Supreme Court, like the rest of the government, was cowed by Steele's tyranny.[1] Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was reduced to watching helpless from the sidelines after the conviction and execution of the Supreme Court Four,[2] and made no protest against the four "rubber stamps" Steele appointed.[3] Hughes was eventually succeeded by Prescott Bush, who was not a lawyer, but very deferential to Steele.[4]

Bush presided over the impeachment of Steele's successor, John Nance Garner in 1953.[5]

Chief Justice Tenure Appointed by
Charles Evans Hughes Charles Evans Hughes.jpg 1930-1948(?) Herbert Hoover
Prescott Bush PrescottBush.jpg 1948(?)-incumbent at novel's end, 1953 Joe Steele

Note: Charles Evans Hughes is almost certainly the incumbent Chief Justice in the short story, but he is only referred to by his title.

Southern Victory

During the Remembrance period (1882-1920), the Supreme Court gave great deference to claims of military necessity.[6] After the end of the Great War and the election of the Socialists to the Congress and the presidency, the Court maintained its conservative complection.[7] Longtime Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a conservative Democrat, died in 1935 and was succeeded by Cicero Pittman, of the same persuasion, who was appointed by President Herbert Hoover.

Chief Justice Tenure Appointed by
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Holmes.jpg ????-1935 Unknown
Cicero Pittman Nophoto.jpg 1935-Incumbent at series end, 1945 Herbert Hoover

Other Chief Justices

In addition to the above, Harry Turtledove has written alternate history stories in which the Chief Justice plays a prominent role or, at a minimum, in which the incumbent Chief Justice is referenced by name.

In addition to the above, Charles Evans Hughes appears in The War That Came Early: Coup d'Etat, where he administers the oath of office of to President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the third time on January 20, 1941, about eight days after Japan has launched a war on the United States.[8]

In The Hot War:Fallout, Chief Justice Fred Vinson is one of a small number of government officials not killed in the Soviet Union's atomic bombing of Washington, DC. He advises President Harry Truman to exercise whatever powers he deems appropriate during the emergency situation.[9]

Historical Chief Justices in Non-Chief Justice Roles

William Howard Taft appears as a congressman in a few volumes of Southern Victory, but never became Chief Justice in that timeline.

Earl Warren is referenced in The Hot War series as incumbent Governor of California. The series ends with him presumably in that office. He became President of the United States in the Colonization series, serving from 1961 until his suicide in 1965. Nothing suggests he was Chief Justice.


  1. Joe Steele, pg.71-72, HC.
  2. Ibid., pgs. 83-84.
  3. Ibid., pgs. 138-139.
  4. Ibid., pg. 403, HC.
  5. Ibid., pg. 432.
  6. American Front, pg. 297.
  7. See, e.g. The Center Cannot Hold, pg. 335.
  8. Coup d'Etat, Chapter 1.
  9. Fallout, p. 398, HC.