Sunday, July 24, 2005

Upon further review

I promised several days ago to write more about U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts after I learned more about his record, but it's tough to find many specifics to discuss.

Roberts has been a judge for all of two years; before then, he bounced back and forth between private practice and work in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. His intelligence and litigation skill are unquestionable; anyone who argues 39 cases before the Supreme Court has to be doing something right.

With that being said, Roberts' long tenure as a lawyer and short tenure as a judge leave plenty of questions about where he stands on many key issues. Attorneys' job is to set aside personal politics and to argue the best case possible on their clients' behalf, so it's illogical to assume, as some have, that Roberts must be pro-corporation because he represented lots of big businesses -- that kind of work pays the bills -- or that he must be pro-life because his name was on a brief arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overruled, which was his employer's official position.

So we're left with Roberts' opinions from his brief tenure on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. USA Today has a good summary of his positions on issues like the environment and police searches, and The New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen suggests some questions that could help U.S. senators shed more light on Roberts' beliefs, particularly his stance on the scope of Congress' power under the Commerce Clause.

Roberts is not a nominee who will provoke fiery opposition, and his confirmation is a virtual certainty. That eventuality makes it all the more important now to discover what kind of philosophy and temperament he will bring to the highest court in the land.

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