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July 20, 2005

John Roberts, day 2

SCOTUSblog has this summary of John Roberts' significant opinions (such as they are) on the D.C. Circuit.  Not a whole lot to learn there, I'm afraid.  His paper trail as an advocate is much longer, but discerning meaning from litigation papers is greatly complicated by the fact that he was advocating for his clients, and he therefore can (and will) credibly claim that the positions taken represent not his own views but those of clients, presented in as forceful a manner as he could think of.

Also, I've already received a MoveOn email frantically announcing a campaign to oppose the nomination.  Well, let me ask you this, guys: who did you think we were going to get?  This President is simply not going to nominate another Ginsburg or Breyer, and this idea that there is another nominee out there who is "in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor" is silly - she is unique for many reasons.  Will Roberts tilt the Court to the right?  Maybe.  But from what I know so far, I doubt that he will do so in a dramatic way.  As Lyle Denniston explains in this interesting post, Roberts is more likely to find his place as the right-most member of a centrist alliance than as a Scalia/Thomas clone. 

Frankly, at this point I'd rather see the Democrats playing nice - and making the Dobsonites really nervous in the process.  It's interesting that the Dobsonites have come out cheering, claiming that they got exactly what they wanted.  I don't believe them for a second - they got someone whose entire career has been devoted to the institution of the Supreme Court, and I believe that kind of institutional devotion will translate into way more respect for the institution than those guys have ever had.  What they wanted was a bomb-thrower.  What they got was a careful conservative.  The Dobsonites are trying to put the best face on what I suspect is a disappointment for them - not as bad as Gonzales would have been, but not what they were hoping for either.

Posted by David at 09:51 AM in Law and Lawyers | Permalink


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Tracked on Jul 20, 2005 11:27:39 AM


I see two seperate views on Roberts coming out - one, he's a partisan political hack, or two, the "careful conservative" as you say.

So which is it? This one is going to be hard to cipher for me, and I think hard for Dems, because he has such a lack of actual judging experience and as you say, he can write off his litigative views as being his clients'. Hmm. I think I need to go make a post out of this comment.

Posted by: Lynne | Jul 20, 2005 10:53:55 AM

...they got someone whose entire career has been devoted to the institution of the Supreme Court.


He's spent the bulk of his career as a legislative and judicial shill for corporate interests at Hogan and Hartson.

Posted by: worldcitizen | Jul 20, 2005 12:06:50 PM

What do progressives want for a nominee? I am confused. Prgressives should be happy. These is posibility this guy coyuld be like Sandra day or maybe harry blackman.
But the thing I find humourous is dems can't choose justice because of numbers and Roberts is sooo much safer, I am willing to bet, then many other candidates. And he is not a hack.
He has real pedigree. Solicitor general's office is for lawyers' lawyers.
So dems should not bitch about this. Reinquist replacement will be major league contoversial, save fight for that.

Posted by: the troll | Jul 20, 2005 1:35:02 PM

hey worldcitizen, didn't deval patrick spend time in his career as a corporate shill for Coke and clients of his white shoe law firms before and after his stint as a nfrind of bill and hillirary's?

Posted by: the troll | Jul 20, 2005 1:36:56 PM

a legislative and judicial shill for corporate interests at Hogan and Hartson

In other words, a lawyer at a big Washington DC firm. I mean, that's the life of the big-firm lawyer. You may not like it, but those are the clients that can pay those firms' rates (everyone would hire those firms if they could afford them). I have done my share of "shilling" for "corporate interests," if that's what you call working for a big law firm. I don't see that as even close to disqualifying.

Posted by: David | Jul 20, 2005 2:57:11 PM

troll, I don't much care for Deval Patrick's background, actually. He certainly hasn't proven himself as a politician, which is why I've commented with quite a bit of skepticism over the past couple of months about his candidacy.

David, how about we get someone with some judicial experience? Or some elective political experience? Or some kind of experience with public service? Assistant assistant solicitor general, or whatever, is just a partisan loyalty position. He's been a judge for a couple of years. That helps, but he hasn't really had a distinguished career or anything.

I never claimed that big-money corporate law was disqualifying, but it sure as hell isn't particularly appealing for a Supreme Court Justice. Anyway, my comment was in response to your claim that he has 'devoted his entire career to the Supreme Court.' I didn't get what you meant by that. And still don't.

Posted by: worldcitizen | Jul 21, 2005 7:45:36 AM

What I meant (and admittedly I could have been clearer) is that Roberts, unlike most big-firm attorneys, was an appellate specialist with a particular focus on Supreme Court litigation. He has argued a huge number of Supreme Court cases (I think I recall hearing 39; most lawyers are thrilled to get one in their careers). And he is widely regarded by left and right as one of the best, if not THE best, Supreme Court advocates of his generation. So his professional life has been, of course, driven to a certain degree by his clients, but it has also been driven by his professional focus on the institution of the Supreme Court. And so I have to disagree with you when you say he hasn't had a "distinguished career." He may not have had a high-profile career outside of legal circles, but he has in fact had an extraordinarily distinguished career in the practice of law.

Also, I am a believer in the notion that the institutions upon which people place importance in their professional and personal lives shape the way they view those institutions and their relationships to them. And so I believe (or, more precisely, I hope) that Roberts' devotion to the Supreme Court as an institution will translate into the kind of respect for the institution and its precedents that will make him a truly conservative judge, not a radical activist like Scalia or Thomas. That's the best we can hope for from this President.

As to why "we" couldn't get a judge with different background, the problem is that "we" didn't win the last election. As Sen. McCain has often said, elections have consequences, and that's what we've got here: a big consequence of the 2004 election. President Kerry certainly would not have nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But I'd also point out that the qualifications you mention, in Bush's hands, could easily have led to a far worse result (e.g., Janice Rogers Brown; Michael Luttig; Sen. Jon Cornyn; I could go on and on).

Posted by: David | Jul 21, 2005 9:55:53 AM

As to why "we" couldn't get a judge with different background, the problem is that "we" didn't win the last election.

So true. :-(

Posted by: worldcitizen | Jul 22, 2005 1:00:17 AM

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