John Roberts on Principles & Values
Supreme Court Justice (nominated by Pres. George W. Bush 2005)
I believed Roberts would be a natural leader. I didn't worry about him drifting away from his principles over time. He described his philosophy of judicial modesty with a baseball analogy that stuck with me: "A good judge is like an umpire--and no umpire thinks he is the most important person on the field."
Another moment that spring illustrated the power of the religious right, but in a way that would cost the Republicans. Congress passed legislation ordering federal courts to intervene in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman, after state courts had authorized doctors to remove her feeding tube. If the Roberts and Alito nominations showed the long-lasting influence of the religious right on the country's politics, the Schiavo episode showed the dangers of overreaching.
No Democratic senator has stepped forward to oppose Roberts outright. But advocacy groups said they would press to question Roberts aggressively in confirmation hearings to fill in the information gaps.
Democrats said they would scrutinize Roberts’s record as a private lawyer for evidence of conflicts or ties to big business. And leading Democratic senators, well aware of a tense history between Democrats and this White House on the release of documents, said they would call on Roberts to release documents he wrote while working in the Solicitor General’s Office, and in the Attorney General’s Office under President Ronald Reagan, to try to divine his views.
After serving just two years on the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Roberts’ record as a judge reveals little. It is a reality that will make some people nervous, but it could very well ease his path in the Senate, where confirmation hearings will take place after Labor Day.
Critics wonder whether Bush had nominated “a stealth candidate.” But how stealthy can he be with the entire conservative establishment on their feet cheering his appointment? Advocates on both sides of the partisan divide will go to school on Roberts over the coming weeks and months, and his “stealth” will be tested in hearings this fall.
”I believe this guy is a basically quite conservative fellow,’’ said a law professor. “He generally will favor government over individual rights, and he will generally be sympathetic to states’ rights over national power. The president wanted to appoint someone markedly to the right of retiring Justice O’Connor in respect to these issues, and he did.’’
“He’s not coming to the court with a broad ideology or unified theory of constitutional law,’’ said a former Justice Department official. ”He’s a Washington establishment lawyer, not a revolutionary.’’
A: I think the standard phase is “zealous advocacy” on behalf of a client. You don’t make any conceivable argument. The argument has to have a reasonable basis in law, but it certainly doesn’t have to be a winner. I’ve lost enough cases that I would hate to be held to that standard. But if it’s an argument that has a reasonable basis in the law, including arguments concerning the extension of precedent and the reversal of precedent-the lawyer is ethically bound to present that argument on behalf of the client. And there is a longstanding tradition in our country, dating back to one of the more famous episodes, of course, being John Adams’ representation of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, that the positions a lawyer presents on behalf of a client should not be ascribed to that lawyer as his personal beliefs or his personal positions.
A: I don’t have an overarching, uniform philosophy. To take a very simple example to make the point, I think we’re all literal textualists when it comes to a provision of the Constitution that says it takes a two-thirds vote to do something. You don’t look at what was the intent behind that, and, you know, given that intent, one-half ought to be enough. On the other hand, there are certain areas where literalism along those lines obviously doesn’t work. If you are dealing with the Fourth Amendment, is something an unreasonable search and seizure, the text is only going to get you so far.
|Other Justices on Principles & Values:||John Roberts on other issues:|
Samuel Alito(since 2006)
Amy Coney Barrett(since 2020)
Stephen Breyer(since 1994)
Neil Gorsuch(since 2017)
Elena Kagan(since 2010)
Brett Kavanaugh(since 2018)
John Roberts(since 2005)
Sonia Sotomayor(since 2009)
Clarence Thomas(since 1991)
Merrick Garland(nominated 2016)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg(1993-2020)
John Paul Stevens(1975-2010)
Sandra Day O'Connor(1981-2006)
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