Thursday, August 11, 2005

John Roberts. Conservative?

If I were James Dobson (thank God for small favors), I'd be getting a bit worried about John Roberts right now. While there's no evidence that he's another William Brennan, there's also not much evidence that he's another Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia. Here's what we now know about him:

1. He did pro bono work for an important gay rights case.
2. He helped defend homeless people and death row litigants.
3. During the Reagan administration, he urged AG William French Smith to distance the Justice Department from the "New Right" and said that conservative giant Paul Weyrich was "no friend of ours."
4. He's had, at best, a cursory relationship with the Federalist Society--the in-crowd of DC legal conservatives.
5. In a recent speech, he spoke of the difficulting of deciding cases and gave the impression that he does not have fixed legal principles.
6. In the same speech, he cited Robert Jackson, Felix Frankfurter, and John Marshall Harlan (the younger) as his judicial role models. None of these justices could be described as doctrinaire conservatives. He also said that he admired William Rehnquist for his collegiality--but he also said the same about William Brennan.
6. In 1981, he advised Sandra Day O'Connor on how to avoid a question regarding her views abortion. But the question was from Jesse Helms, who demanded to know if she supported or opposed Roe v. Wade.
7. His wife is a supporter of Feminists for Life, suggesting that she is not uncomfortable with the "F" word.

Yes, Roberts has taken several conservative stands on the issues, particularly voting rights. But given what we know about him he seems no more and probably less conservative than David Souter and Anthony Kennedy seemed before they were on the Court. And if Roberts, in fact, turns out like those justices, the Dobsonites will be sorely disappointed. I would say that the best thing Roberts has going for him with conservatives is ads like this by NARAL. I think a better strategy to undermine his confirmation would be to have the Human Rights Campaign run ads praising his work on the Colorado gay rights decision.

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