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Appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court

Responses to the
nomination of Judge Roberts

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Background:

On 2005-JUL-19, President Bush nominated John G. Roberts, "a rigid conservative" as his selection to replace Justice O'Connor who announced her retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court. He is currently a U.S. Appeals Court judge in the District of Columbia with "a deep Republican pedigree" who has been under fire for his views against abortion access long before he was nominated to the Supreme Court. President Bush referred to Judge Roberts as one of the great legal minds of his generation. He said: "John Roberts has devoted his entire professional life to the cause of justice. He is a man of extraordinary accomplishments. He has a good heart." 8

With the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on 2005-SEP-03, President Bush nominated Judge John Roberts to be the new chief justice. Until Roberts was installed as chief justice on 2005-OCT-03, Justice Stevens functioned as the acting chief justice. In the meantime, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has delayed her resignation until her replacement is installed.

Reactions to the nomination of John Roberts:

bulletThere are rumors that conservative and liberal advocacy groups have amassed war chests totaling in excess of 100 million dollars to fight for and against the nomination of a strict constructionist to the Supreme Court.
 
bulletOn JUL-19, the evening of the nomination, Progress for America, whose name sounds liberal, but is really a conservative group, held a rally in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington DC. Members carried signs reading "Confirm."
 
bulletPeople for the American Way, whose name sounds conservative, but is really a liberal group, sent out 400,000 Emails opposing the nomination, within minutes of the announcement. They commented:

"What we know about John Robert's record as Deputy Solicitor General and as a judge shows a troubling lack of concern for the fundamental civil and constitutional rights of all Americans. Americans deserve a justice who will protect our rights and freedoms. Serious questions must be addressed before Robert's nomination to the nation's highest court can be evaluated properly."

"Some alarming aspects of Robert's record they must consider include:"

bulletReproductive and Privacy Rights: Roberts urged the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade while arguing before the Court as Deputy Solicitor General in a case that did not even directly concern that issue. His brief plainly states that "Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled."
 
bulletSeparation of Church and State: Roberts argued against clear First Amendment protections for religious liberty and in favor of officially sponsored school prayer at graduation ceremonies before the Supreme Court, which rejected his argument.
 
bulletEnvironmental Protections: As a judge, Roberts suggested in a dissent that the Endangered Species Act was unconstitutional as applied to a California development case.
 
bulletVeteran Protections: Roberts argued American POWs tortured in Iraq during the Gulf War should not be able to utilize federal courts to pursue their claims.
 
bulletExcessive Arrest Procedures: Roberts ruled against a 12-year old girl who was handcuffed, arrested and taken away by police for eating a single French fry on the D.C. Metro, even though an adult would only have gotten a paper citation in that situation. 2
 
bulletPatrick Leahy (D-VT) ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee asked for: "the cooperation of the nominee and the administration" in the confirmation process. He promised to give Judge Roberts a fair hearing but not a "rubber stamp." He said: "We need to consider this nomination as thoroughly and carefully as the American people deserve. No one is entitled to a free pass to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court."
 
bulletNARAL Pro-Choice America opposed Roberts when he was nominated to the appeals court because they say he worked to overturn Roe v. Wade -- the Supreme Court decision that made early abortions freely available.
 
bulletThe American View radio program expressed concern that John Roberts is "pro-abortion." They quote part of Robert's speech at his confirmation hearing for an appointment to Court of Appeals. He said:

"Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land. It is not -- it's a little more than settled. It was reaffirmed in the face of a challenge that it should be overruled in the Casey decision. Accordingly, it's the settled law of the land. There's nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent, as well as Casey." 3

Michael Peroutka of GodFamilyRepublic.com commented:
"This is a very significant admission because Roberts is saying he has no personal view that in any way sees abortion --- the murder of innocent, unborn children --- as being wrong. And this is why he will uphold all the Supreme Court decisions making abortion 'legal'."
Peroutka also concluded that Roberts is not a strict constructionist.
 

bulletAttorney General Alberto Gonzales pointed out in an interview with the Associated Press that for judges in lower courts, the Roe v. Wade ruling firmly established a woman's right to an early abortion. However, a Supreme Court justice does not have to follow a previous ruling by that court. In Lawrence v. Texas the Court overturned a previous decision which had criminalized some forms of sexual behaviors and even apologized for its mistake. If Roberts' nomination were to be approved, he would be quite free to vote in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade. Gonzales said: "If you're asking a circuit court judge, like Judge Roberts was asked, yes, it is settled law because you're bound by the precedent, If you're a Supreme Court justice, that's a different question because a Supreme Court justice is not obliged to follow precedent if you believe it's wrong." 4
 
bulletSenator John Comyn (R-TX) interviewed Judge Roberts on JUL-25. Roberts assured him that he would rule on the law without being influenced by his religion. He is a Roman Catholic. Comyn said: "He recognized that anybody who cannot do that ... is unsuitable for the bench." This could be a factor in such matters as abortion access, the death penalty, and equal rights for homosexuals -- including same-sex marriage -- all which the Church opposes. When asked what he would do if the constitution and precedent required him to rule in favor of a matter that his Church considered immoral, Roberts responded that he would probably have to recuse himself.  5 However, a later report indicated that he "responded that his personal views would not color his judicial thinking ? as he has testified in the past." 6

bulletThe Washington Post stated that: "In a series of interviews in recent days, more than a dozen Democratic senators and aides who are intimately involved in deliberations about strategy said that they see no evidence that most Democratic senators are prepared to expend political capital in what is widely seen as a futile effort to derail the nomination." 7

Judge Roberts' nomination was approved by the Senate by a vote of 77 to 23. He was installed as the 17th justice of the U.S. Supreme Court on 2005-OCT-03.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Bush nominates Roberts to Supreme Court. Republicans praise nominee as Dems vow thorough review," CNN News, 2005-JUL-20, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  2. "Roberts Nomination Raises Red Flags. Tell the Senate to Do Its Duty -- Don't Rubber Stamp!," People for the American Way, Emailed news release, 2005-JUL-19 at 10:23.
  3. "15th 'American View' Radio Show Exposes Pro-Abortion View Of Bush Nominee John Roberts, Hear It Now,"  http://www.godfamilyrepublic.com/
  4. "AG: High Court not bound by Roe v. Wade," Associated Press, 2005-JUL-26, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
  5. Thomas Ferraro, "Supreme Court nom Roberts gives assurances -senator," Reuters, 2005-JUL-25, at: http://news.yahoo.com/
  6. Bret McAtee, "Supreme Nonsense," The Backwater Report, 2005-AIUG-03, at: http://backwaterreport.com/
  7. Mike Allen and Dana Milbank, "Roberts Unlikely To Face Big Fight. Many Democrats See Battle as Futile." Washington Post, 2005-AUG-16, Page A01. Online at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

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Copyright © 2005 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-JUL-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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