Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts: Why He Should Not Be Confirmed

Church & State, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts: Why He Should Not Be Confirmed


John G. Roberts Jr. is the wrong judge to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some might argue that conclusion is premature. Roberts has been a federal appeals court judge for less than two years While on the bench, he issued no significant rulings in the area of separation of church and state Roberts has also been extraordinarily circumspect in his public utterances. Unlike some potential court nominees, he has not been in the habit of writing incendiary magazine articles or giving controversial speeches.

Yet unpleasant facts remain. The truth is, while we may not know much about Roberts, what we do know is very troubling

Roberts has been a loyal foot soldier in the far right political revolution all of has adult life Has resume shows a predictable trajectory: He clerked for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and then worked in the Reagan and first George Bush White Houses. He spent the Clinton years in private practice and was then appointed to a federal judgeship by the second President Bush.

During his White House stints, Roberts showed a consistent hostility toward civil liberties and never failed to align with the far right. In 1991, he co-authored a legal brief asking the Supreme Court to toss out years of precedent governing church-state relations. This was no recommendation that the court take a baby step away from Jefferson's church state wall. It was a radical attempt to dramatically recast church-state relations.

Under the legal theory championed by Roberts, his boss Ken Starr and other attorneys in the Solicitor General's Office, officially sponsored prayer at public school events, government display of the Ten Commandments and other mixes of religion and government would be declared acceptable practices because of their alleged historical nature.

The Supreme Court, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy (a Reagan appointee), rejected the argument, noting it would turn First Amendment jurisprudence on its head. That's not surprising. What is surprising is that such an extreme argument was made at all. …

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