Chief Justice John Roberts fell last month while walking, received stitches to close a wound on his head and spent the night in the hospital, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
The episode was not announced at the time, but the court confirmed it late Tuesday after a query from The Washington Post.
“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,” the spokeswoman, Kathleen Arberg, said in statement. “The injury required sutures, and out of an abundance of caution, he stayed in the hospital overnight and was discharged the next morning.”
Roberts, 65, has a history of seizures, but Arberg said that was not believed to have been what led to the chief justice’s injury last month.
“His doctors ruled out a seizure,” she said. “They believe the fall was likely due to light-headedness caused by dehydration.”
Roberts reportedly suffered a seizure in 1993 while golfing and was told not to drive for several months.
In 2007, two years after assuming his post as chief justice, the court confirmed that Roberts slipped off a dock at his Maine vacation home and suffered scrapes after apparently suffering a seizure.
The earlier episode was not disclosed during Roberts’ confirmation process because the White House considered it to be a one-off incident. Doctors said the 1993 and 2007 seizures meant Roberts would be deemed to suffer from epilepsy, although the court said in 2007 that the seizures were of unknown origin.
The Post said that the episode last month took place at a country club near Roberts’ home in Chevy Chase, Md. An onlooker told the newspaper that the chief justice’s head was covered in blood.
The episode might have come to light sooner if the court were operating normally, since the justices typically have multiple public sessions in late June to release opinions. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the court has suspended its public sittings and is releasing its opinions online.
The court’s customary summer break has also been delayed by more than a week, with final opinions expected in the coming days.
Roberts is the sixth-oldest justice on the high court. The oldest is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 87 and has survived several bouts of cancer.
After some journalists noted the belated disclosure of Roberts’ recent fall, one Trump administration official used the opportunity to grouse about several recent rulings from the chief justice that have contributed to conservatives feeling betrayed by Roberts, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
“A month? That’s nothing. Justice Roberts’ didn’t reveal who he really is for 15 years,” Michael Caputo, the spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department, quipped on Twitter.
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