Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Why Roberts is a bad choice

After hours of mind-numbing congressional hearings, there are two things we know for certain about about Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts:

1. He is a brilliant legal scholar
2. He will be our next Chief Justice

But other than that, we know little about the man who may lead the Court for the next 20-40 years.

What? you may say - look at his record. If you're a Republican you'll point to his long record of conservative opinions. If you're a Democrat you'll point to... well, that same long record of conservative opinions.

But I'd ask: What record?

John Roberts' record comes from years as a paid legal consultant. I'm sorry - but that's about as far from being a judicial record as you can get. I've employed lawyers before. Heck, I even have one in the family. And lawyer's do what is in the best interest of their clients. Their opinions and positions and arguments are all prepared to support the case of their client. And in much of John Roberts' case, that client happend to be a Republican administration.

Yes, he also has a two-year record as Judge Roberts, but his cases and positions there have been less than revealing about issues pertaining to constitutional law.

And yes, the fact that he worked for a Replican administration rather than a Democratic one would seem to indicate that he leans conservative. But it has little reflection on how he will perform his duties on the United States Supreme Court. About the only revalation we have are the words of Judge Roberts himself, when he stated:
"I do not think beginning with an all-encompassing approach to constitutional interpretation is the best way to faithfully construe the document."

Interpreted by Cass Sunstein, law professor at the University of Chicago: "Judge Roberts's opinions thus far are careful, lawyerly, and narrow. They avoid broad pronouncements. They do not try to reorient the law." This means Roberts appears to be a judicial minimalist, emphasizing precedent, as opposed to being an original or rights-focused jurist. In other words, he works hard not to have an interpretation or influence on the law.

So in essence, Judge Roberts is a bad choice for Democrats because all of the existing documentation supports his conservative label. But Roberts is also a bad choice for Republicans because he is, quite frankly, an unknown with respect to his judicial leanings and his statements thus far have implied he has no intent of shaping the court in any direction.

All in all, everyone has something to dislike, or distrust, about confirming John Roberts to the Supreme Court - he appears only to want to decide law on... the law.

Hmmm... maybe that makes him a good choice after all.



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