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Chicago Tribune Editorial
The choice for the court
Published July 20, 2005
Choosing a Supreme Court nominee is one of the most important and far-reaching decisions a president can make. A justice can serve on the court for decades, and the effect of its decisions last longer still.
Presidents have often appointed justices for passing political reasons, or even personal ones. But when it came time for George W. Bush to make his first nomination, he did something different: He looked for a distinguished lawyer with a mind to match the difficult issues the court must address and the youth to serve long enough to leave a substantial imprint.
John Roberts is a lawyer's lawyer. A Harvard Law School graduate, he worked in the federal government as an associate counsel for President Ronald Reagan and deputy solicitor general for the first President Bush. In private practice, he gained a reputation as one of the premier Supreme Court litigators in Washington.
Roberts has spent the last two years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the second most powerful court in the land. He has impressed observers with his deep knowledge, clear thinking and serious purpose. His 39 appearances before the Supreme Court are an invaluable training that few justices have had.
Roberts, 50, is generally regarded as a solid conservative but not a hard-edged ideologue. His brief time as an appellate judge means he has written few opinions that might reveal his underlying judicial philosophy. While that may give the Republican Party's right wing some concern, it also leaves Democratic partisans with minimal ammunition against him. Anyone hoping to portray him as a dangerous extremist, as Robert Bork was caricatured in 1987, will have to be exceptionally creative.
About the worst Democrats can say about Roberts is that as deputy solicitor general, he signed a brief arguing that the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion had "no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution." For better or worse, that happens to be almost indisputable. Still, the brief sheds minimal light on whether Roberts would vote to overturn the decision. He presented the brief on behalf of the first President Bush, not for himself. And even a lawyer who thought Roe was wrong in 1973 might choose, after 32 years, to leave settled law settled. There is no way to know, and Roberts is not likely to say at a confirmation hearing.
Some Americans will be disappointed that Bush didn't choose a woman or a Hispanic in the interest of diversity. That's a reasonable sentiment and one that will probably play a bigger role if another vacancy opens up. No appointment, unfortunately, can meet every need. But the Supreme Court always needs outstanding legal minds. In Roberts, it would get exactly that.
by alfayoko2005 | 2005-07-20 23:49