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The New York Times Editorial
July 20, 2005
Scrutinizing John Roberts
The American people know little about Judge John Roberts, other than that President Bush is nominating him to fill Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. But in the coming weeks that should change. The Senate has a duty to scrutinize his background and to question him closely at his confirmation hearings about substantive areas of the law. If he is a mainstream conservative in the tradition of Justice O'Connor, he should be confirmed. But if on closer inspection he turns out to be an extreme ideologue with an agenda of stripping away important rights, he should not be.
Judge Roberts is a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and before that he was a lawyer in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush. Compared with many of the possible nominees whose names have been circulating, he has a thin record on controversial subjects. This may have helped him win the nomination because it gives the other side so little to work with. But it also puts a greater burden on the Senate to determine what kind of justice he would be.
One of the most important areas for the Senate to explore is Judge Roberts's views on federalism - the issue of how much power the federal government should have. The far right is on a drive to resurrect ancient, and discredited, states' rights theories. If extremists take control of the Supreme Court, we will end up with an America in which the federal government is powerless to protect against air pollution, unsafe working conditions and child labor. There are reasons to be concerned about Judge Roberts on this score. He dissented in an Endangered Species Act case in a way that suggested he might hold an array of environmental laws, and other important federal protections, to be unconstitutional.
There are also serious questions about the attitude of Judge Roberts toward abortion rights. As a lawyer in the first President Bush's administration, he helped write a brief arguing that Roe v. Wade should be overturned.
President Bush did the country a service by making his nomination early enough for the Senate to have ample time to investigate the judge's record and hold hearings. The leaders in both parties should resist any pressures to move quickly. It would be irresponsible to take a position on the nomination of Judge Roberts until his background is carefully reviewed, and until senators have a chance to question him at length. The nomination of a new Supreme Court justice is a great moment for the nation, providing new vigor to a great American institution. The entire country has a stake in the outcome.
by alfayoko2005 | 2005-07-20 18:05