Bush Nominates Judge John Roberts to U.S. Supreme Court
President Bush on Tuesday nominated federal appeals court judge John Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court, USA Today reports (Keen/Benedetto, USA Today, 7/20). O'Connor earlier this month announced her resignation from the court, sparking renewed discussion over the potential influence a new justice could have in deciding legal rights for abortion in the country (California Healthline, 7/5).
Some observers say Roberts' views could "tip the scales" on a "precariously balanced court" because O'Connor was the deciding vote on several decisions, including abortion-related cases, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/20). Roberts, who is 50 and has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court, for the past two years has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and previously served as a deputy solicitor general under Kenneth Starr in the first Bush administration (Brune/Gordon, Long Island Newsday, 7/20).
Roberts' views on issues such as abortion, which are expected to generate controversy during his confirmation hearings, are ambiguous, and he has never written a legal opinion on the issue as a judge, the Wall Street Journal reports (Bravin/Cummings, Wall Street Journal, 7/20). However, Roberts in 1991 while serving as deputy solicitor general argued that federally funded family planning clinics should be banned from providing abortion-related counseling and said that Roe v. Wade -- the 1973 Supreme Court case that struck down state abortion bans -- was "wrongly decided" and did not have support "in the text, structure or history of the Constitution" (Brune/Riley, Long Island Newsday, 7/20).
He said the decision should be overturned, according to the Washington Post. However, during his 2003 confirmation hearings for the federal judgeship, Roberts downplayed those comments, saying he made those statements only as part of making a case for the administration (Smith/Becker, Washington Post, 7/20). During the hearings, he also said the decision in Roe is "the settled law of the land" (Savage et al., Los Angeles Times, 7/20).
Following Roberts' nomination, Senate Democrats said his views on abortion likely will draw the most scrutiny than any other issue during confirmation hearings and promised to thoroughly review Roberts' record, the Boston Globe reports. "The Senate must learn whether he has clear, consistent principles upholding constitutional standards like civil rights and the right to privacy in Roe v. Wade," Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said (Klein, Boston Globe, 7/20).
However, Senate Republicans praised Bush's selection as "outstanding," saying Roberts has solid legal credentials to serve and is well-respected, according to the Long Island Newsday (Palmer, Long Island Newsday, 7/20). "Judge Roberts is an exceptional judge, brilliant legal mind and a man of outstanding character who understands his profound duty to follow the law," Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said (Page/Kiely, USA Today, 7/20).
Some Senate Republicans think Roberts will be confirmed to the Supreme Court easily because many Democrats did not offer strong opposition to his nomination immediately after the announcement, the Washington Times reports (Hurt , Washington Times, 7/20). According to the Los Angeles Times, Roberts' nomination likely will not cause a fierce confirmation battle in the Senate because he does not create intense enthusiasm or objections among either conservatives or liberals.
However, he still could incite a confrontation in the Senate after both sides explore Roberts' record in the coming weeks (Brownstein, Los Angeles Times, 7/20). Although no schedule for the hearings has been set, observers expect hearings to begin in late August or early September and likely last about a week, the Washington Times reports (Hurt , Washington Times, 7/20).
Several broadcast programs reported on Roberts' nomination and his background on abortion rights:
- C-SPAN's "Washington Journal": Guests on the program are scheduled to include Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), and Jeffrey Peck, former counsel and staff director of the Senate Judiciary Committee ("Washington Journal," C-SPAN, 7/20). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": The segment includes comments from Douglas Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University, and Jeffrey Rosen, a professor at George Washington University Law School (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/19). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer. Expanded NPR coverage of Roberts' nomination is available online.
- NPR's "Morning Edition": The segment includes comments from Keenan and Operation Rescue President Troy Newman (Totenberg, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/20). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Talk of the Nation": The program is scheduled to include a discussion of Roberts' nomination (Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR, 7/20). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after 6 p.m. ET.
- WAMU's "The Diane Rehm Show": Guests on the first hour of the program are scheduled to include Joan Biskupic, a reporter for USA Today, and Stuart Taylor of National Journal (Rehm, "The Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 7/20). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after the broadcast.