Should we be shocked that it leaked in advance? Initial view of John G. Roberts Jr.- down-the-line hard rightwinger on abortion, separation of church and state, and environmental protection. He’s pro-corporate and doesn’t support voter rights much. My sad prediction is that he’ll probably go through. Don’t let the smile fool you – he’s very very smart – and he has the hardest eyes I’ve seen from someone who grew up in Indiana. Watch and learn. They’ll make as many big moves as they can in the fall while they have the majority clear and easy. Bad news.
Law.com describes him as a conservative
who can be counted on to undermine if not immediately overturn liberal landmarks like abortion rights and affirmative action. Indicators of his true stripes cited by friends include: clerking for Rehnquist, membership in the Federalist Society, laboring in the Ronald Reagan White House counsel’s office and at the Justice Department into the Bush years, working with Kenneth Starr among others, and even his lunchtime conversations at Hogan & Hartson. “He is as conservative as you can get,” one friend puts it. In short, Roberts may combine the stealth appeal of Souter with the unwavering ideology of Scalia and Thomas.
Dkosopedia summarizes his record this way:
Civil Rights and Liberties
For a unanimous panel, denied the weak civil rights claims of a 12-year-old girl who was arrested and handcuffed in a Washington, D.C., Metro station for eating a French fry. Roberts noted that “no one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation” and that the Metro authority had changed the policy that led to her arrest. (Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 2004).
In private practice, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Congress had failed to justify a Department of Transportation affirmative action program. (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 2001). He also argued against Title IX as applied to the NCAA in NCAA v. Smith.
For Reagan, opposed a congressional effort—in the wake of the 1980 Supreme Court decision Mobile v. Bolden—to make it easier for minorities to successfully argue that their votes had been diluted under the Voting Rights Act.
Separation of Church and State
For Bush I, co-authored a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that public high-school graduation programs could include religious ceremonies. The Supreme Court disagreed by a vote of 5-4. (Lee v. Weisman, 1992)
Environmental Protection and Property Rights
Voted for rehearing in a case about whether a developer had to take down a fence so that the arroyo toad could move freely through its habitat. Roberts argued that the panel was wrong to rule against the developer because the regulations on behalf of the toad, promulgated under the Endangered Species Act, overstepped the federal government’s power to regulate interstate commerce. At the end of his opinion, Roberts suggested that rehearing would allow the court to “consider alternative grounds” for protecting the toad that are “more consistent with Supreme Court precedent.” (Rancho Viejo v. Nortion, 2003)
For Bush I, argued that environmental groups concerned about mining on public lands had not proved enough about the impact of the government’s actions to give them standing to sue. The Supreme Court adopted this argument. (Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 1990)
Joined a unanimous opinion ruling that a police officer who searched the trunk of a car without saying that he was looking for evidence of a crime (the standard for constitutionality) still conducted the search legally, because there was a reasonable basis to think contraband was in the trunk, regardless of whether the officer was thinking in those terms. (U.S. v. Brown, 2004)
Joined a unanimous opinion denying the claim of a prisoner who argued that by tightening parole rules in the middle of his sentence, the government subjected him to an unconstitutional after-the-fact punishment. The panel reversed its decision after a Supreme Court ruling directly contradicted it. (Fletcher v. District of Columbia, 2004)
For Bush I, successfully helped argue that doctors and clinics receiving federal funds may not talk to patients about abortion. (Rust v. Sullivan, 1991)
Overturning Roe was such a primary focus of the Reagan Administration’s Justice Department while Roberts was in the administration, that during an oral argument by the nominee to the Supreme Court a Justice asked, “Mr. Roberts, in this case, are you asking that Roe v. Wade be overruled?” His reply was, “No your honor, the issue doesn’t even come up.” To this the justice replied, “Well that hasn’t prevented the Solicitor General from taking that position in prior cases.”
As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in a brief before the Supreme Court that “we continue to believe that Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled. The Court’s conclusion in Roe that there is a fundamental right to an abortion…finds no support in the text, structure, or history of the Constitution.”
As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Operation Rescue and named individuals who routinely blocked access to clinics. The brief argued that the protesters’ behavior did not discriminate against women and that blockades and clinic protests were protected speech under the First Amendment. This case, Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic, spurred the Congress to enact the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
Concurring in a decision allowing President Bush to halt suits by Americans against Iraq as the country rebuilds, Roberts called for deference to the executive and for a literal reading of the relevant statute. (Acree v. Republic of Iraq, 2004)
In an article written as a law student, argued that the phrase “just compensation” in the Fifth Amendment, which limits the government in the taking of private property, should be “informed by changing norms of justice.” This sounds like a nod to liberal constitutional theory, but Rogers’ alternative interpretation was more protective of property interests than Supreme Court law at the time.
Lead counsel for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Ky, Inc. v. Williams. The case involved a woman who was fired after asking Toyota for accommodations to do her job after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The court ruled that while this condition impaired her ability to work, it did not impair her ability to perform major life activities. Disability rights groups fear that this decision may erode the Americans with Disabilities Act.