U.S. Supreme Court

Chief Justice Roberts Admits He Doesn’t Read the Computer Fine Print


Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. admitted at a college appearance on Tuesday that he doesn’t usually read the fine print that computer users must agree to before accessing some websites.

Speaking at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., the city where he was born, Roberts talked about cameras in the court, the president’s State of the Union Address, and frustrating fine print, according to stories by the Associated Press and the Buffalo News.

Answering a student question, Roberts admitted he doesn’t usually read the computer jargon that is a condition of accessing websites, and gave another example of fine print: the literature that accompanies medications, the AP story reports.

It has “the smallest type you can imagine and you unfold it like a map,” he said. “It is a problem,” he added, “because the legal system obviously is to blame for that.” Providing too much information defeats the purpose of disclosure, since no one reads it, he said. “What the answer is,” he said, “I don’t know.”

Roberts’ observations echo those of Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who said at a conference in June that he didn’t read the hundreds of pages of documentation for a home equity loan.

Roberts also addressed these topics:

• Asked about the possibility of televised oral arguments, Roberts said the court is slow to adopt technological change out of fear it might injure the institution. Roberts said he fears the effects of cameras, according to WIVB.com. “I don’t want to think twice before asking a question, thinking how is that going to sound,” he said.

• Asked about State of the Union speeches, Roberts said attendance is an individual decision. “Some of my colleagues made the decision that they don’t want to go, period,” Roberts said, “and I think that’s something that’s up to each individual member of the court.”

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