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The biggest danger to the First Amendment comes from those who use it irresponsibly, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., said Sept. 19. “Don’t blow it,” he admonished students at Syracuse University. Roberts also linked the health of the First Amendment to the independence of the judiciary. “There can be little doubt that the First Amendment would be the first victim should the independence of our judiciary be curtailed.” Roberts got his own dose of the First Amendment during his visit to the university to help dedicate the Newhouse School of Public Communications’ newest building. “Bong Hits 4 Roberts” was on one protest sign held by a student, a comment on the Court’s June decision in Morse v. Frederick, backing an Alaska high school principal who ordered a student to take down a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” sign. At a private lunch Roberts was seated next to New Yorker editor David Remnick (the magazine is owned by Advance Publications, which in turned is owned by the Newhouse family, the school’s leading patron). During lunch, Remnick told the local newspaper, he pressed Roberts on why the Court is so “shrouded in mystery.” According to Remnick, Roberts replied that the integrity and processes of the Court would be undermined if too much of its inside baseball were aired in the press. Roberts also met off the record with 40 Syracuse students, including student journalists who pressed him — unsuccessfully — on the Morse decision. But apparently no one asked Roberts about his health. He suffered a seizure near his summer home in Maine July 30, and he has declined to answer questions about the episode. Roberts looked fit and relaxed under a hot sun during his Syracuse visit.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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