Supreme Court Nominee: John Roberts
Personal Information about Judge John Roberts
Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 27, 1955. Raised in Indiana. He is one of four children (the only boy, and second oldest). Judge Roberts lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts and their two children.
Judge Roberts was graduated Summa Cum Laude from Harvard University in only three years. After graduating from Harvard Law School with high honors and serving as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Judge Roberts clerked for Judge Henry Friendly on the Second Circuit and later for Justice William Rehnquist at the Supreme Court.
After his clerkships, Judge Roberts served in the Department of Justice and later as Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan before going into private practice.
After three years in private practice, Judge Roberts returned to the Department of Justice as Principal Deputy Solicitor General, a position in which he briefed and argued a variety of cases before the Supreme Court.
Judge Roberts Has Extensive Experience in working with the Supreme Court. Prior to his service on the D.C Circuit (often referred to as “the second highest court in the land” and the bench from which three current Supreme Court Justices came to the Court), Judge Roberts argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court. Only a handful of the 180,000 members of the Supreme Court bar have come close to arguing that many cases. He has an ample record that should be carefully reviewed.
Judge Roberts was reported favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee by a vote of 16-3, and confirmed by the Senate for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals by unanimous consent.
Judge John Roberts’s Record on Civil Rights and Women’s Rights
Judge John Roberts’s record is mixed, both as Deputy Solicitor General and on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, raises serious concerns and requires careful review. On the one hand, in the 1995 case of Barry v. Little, Judge Roberts argued—free of charge—before the D.C. Court of Appeals on behalf of a class of the neediest welfare recipients, challenging a termination of benefits under the District’s Public Assistance Act of 1982.
However, Roberts has also demonstrated a hostility to individual rights, women’s reproductive rights, and he has taken positions that would undermine free speech. His experience as a judge is limited, but what little record he has on the bench raises serious questions about his judicial philosophy and whether his ideology would weigh more heavily on his decisions thus making him less likely to be impartial. Although it has been said that he rules based on the application of existing laws and specific facts of the cases before him, rather than making new laws or creating new policies based on personal opinion. It has also been stated that he is willing to support others who exhibit similar values.
Many of the civil rights groups have raised strong concerns, and the American Disabilities Association has flat out opposed him (NOTE: This is unusual. They generally do not come out strongly in opposition of judicial candidates – I’ve attached their press release below).
· In Hedgepeth v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth. (2004), Roberts rejected the civil rights claims brought on behalf of a 12-year-old girl who had been handcuffed, arrested and taken away by police for eating a single French fry in the D.C. Metro. Roberts rejected the claim that the girl’s equal protection rights had been violated by a DC law that only would have required an adult in the same situation to be given a citation, instead of being arrested.
· In Acree v. Republic of Iraq (2004), a suit filed against the Republic of Iraq and Saddam Hussein by seventeen American soldiers who had been captured and tortured during the Gulf War, Roberts argued in dissent that the courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the case. Had he prevailed, the soldiers would have been deprived of any possible relief in court.
Roberts used his position as Deputy Solicitor General to press the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade:
* Roberts co-authored a brief for the government in Rust v. Sullivan (1991) which stated that “Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled,” even though the case did not directly involve the validity of Roe.
* He co-authored an amicus curiae brief in Bray v. Alexandria Women’s Health Clinic (1993), in support of the radical anti-choice group Operation Rescue, which had obstructed access to reproductive health care clinics. His brief claimed that the protesters’ conduct did not constitute discrimination against women.
Judge Roberts’s Commitment to Environmental and Other Vital Protections is Questionable
In Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton (2003), Roberts and only one other judge dissented when the court denied en banc review of a panel decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act, as it applied to a real estate development project. Roberts’s dissent strongly suggested that he thought it would be unconstitutional to apply the Endangered Species Act in the case. His dissent also advances a crabbed view of Congressional power that could threaten to undermine a wide swath of federal protections, ranging from criminal laws to workplace safeguards. The Supreme Court recently rejected Roberts’ view of Congress’ legislative authority. Given recent reports that have come out from the EPA on environmental justice, this latter issue raises strong concerns for the Hispanic community that has been disproportionately and adversely impacted by issues such as power plants in their neighborhoods, toxic dumping sites, etc.
Judge Roberts Interprets Separation Between Church and State Loosely
Roberts co-authored an amicus brief filed by the United States in Lee v. Weisman (1992). In this amicus brief he urged the Court to scrap the long-standing test the Court has used to decide whether laws and practices violate the Establishment Clause. His argument was not only rejected by the Court but criticized by the majority for its erroneous First Amendment analysis, which brings into question his judicial philosophy.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 Contact: Jim Ward, 202-415-4753
ADA Watch and the National Coalition for Disability Rights Opposes Supreme Court Nominee Judge John Roberts “Out of the Mainstream” Nominee Poses Threat to Americans with Disabilities Statement of Jim Ward, Founder and President of ADA Watch/NCDR
(Washington, DC) ADA Watch/NCDR is opposed to the nomination of Judge John Roberts to a lifetime seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
At a time when our Nation could have greatly benefited from the selection of a mainstream consensus nominee, people with disabilities -- indeed all Americans -- should be saddened and disturbed by President Bush's choice of Judge John Roberts to fill Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.
While Justice O'Connor did not take the side of people with disabilities in all cases, she was the swing vote on important 5-4 rulings involving the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including historic cases such as Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) and Tennessee v. Lane, 541 U.S. 509 (2004).
With the selection of John Roberts, President Bush is making good on his stated intention to fill a Court vacancy with a nominee in the mold of Scalia or Thomas -- Justices who have consistently ruled against people with disabilities in these and other landmark cases. If confirmed, such 5-4 votes would surely go in the other direction and reverse the historic gains of people with disabilities.
ADA Watch/NCDR is a coalition of hundreds of disability, civil rights and social justice organizations united to defend and promote the human rights of children and adults with physical, mental, cognitive and developmental disabilities.
Why we are opposed to Judge John Roberts:
Narrow Interpretation of the ADA:
After the Sixth Circuit ruled that a woman with serious manual impairments was substantially limited in one or more of her life activities, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case (Williams v. Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc., 224 F.3d 840 ), and Judge Roberts argued and briefed the case on behalf of Toyota. His briefs and oral argument distorted the facts of the case and minimized the extent of Ella Williams' disability.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court believed Judge Roberts’s misrepresentations and decided in favor of Toyota. It also came down with a new and very strict test for disability. This test has made it much more difficult for ADA plaintiffs to prove that they are disabled with devastating impact on people with epilepsy, diabetes, mental illness and workplace injuries.
The impact of Robert's distortions is evident in subsequent decisions including Three Rivers Center for Independent Living v. Pittsburgh Public Housing Authority, which barred a Center for Independent Living (CIL) from filing suit to hold a Public Housing Authority accountable for violating Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Thus the consequences of Judge Roberts’s distortions of the record have been wide-ranging: they helped to create yet another unfortunate Supreme Court precedent that has further impeded the goals of the ADA.
Roberts’ record demonstrates his inclination to strike down federal anti-discrimination statues and to further limit congressional power, narrowly construe the ADA, and restrict the ability of plaintiffs to get into federal court.
Roberts declared that the current Supreme Court is not conservative enough specifically in response to the October 1999 term during which the conservative majority judicial activism included the striking down of the Violence Against Women Act and throwing out an age discrimination suit on federalism grounds.
Mr. Roberts is a member of two right-wing legal groups that promote a pro-corporate, anti-regulatory agenda: the Federalist Society and the National Legal Center For The Public Interest, serving on the latter group's Legal Advisory Council.
The Federalist Society’s overarching goal is to roll back domestic policy to before FDR’s New Deal and its members (including Jeffrey Sutton, William Pryor, and others) have specifically targeted the ADA. The National Legal Center For The Public Interest has attacked ADA civil rights protections in numerous forums including its publication of a document entitled "Civil Rights and the Disabled: The Legislative Twilight Zone."
Narrowing of Civil Rights Protections:
After a Supreme Court decision effectively nullified certain sections of the Voting Rights Act (City of Mobile v. Bolden 446 U.S. 55 ), Roberts was involved in the Reagan administration's effort to prevent Congress from overturning the Supreme Court's action. The Supreme Court had recently decided that certain sections of the Voting Rights Act could only be violated by intentional discrimination and not by laws that had a discriminatory effect, despite a lack of textual basis for this interpretation in the statute. Roberts was part of the effort to legitimize that decision and to stop Congress from overturning it.
In private practice, wrote a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that Congress had failed to justify a Department of Transportation affirmative action program. (Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Mineta, 2001).
As expressed in one case where he would have invalidated a provision of the Endangered Species Act, his exceedingly restrictive view of federal law-making authority – more restrictive than the current Supreme Court’s – could threaten a wide swath of workplace, civil rights, public safety and environmental protections. In his years of service as a political appointee in the administrations of Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, Judge Roberts also helped craft legal policies that sought to weaken school desegregation efforts, the reproductive rights of women, environmental protections, church-state separation and the voting rights of African Americans.
Jim Ward, Founder and President ADA Watch/National Coalition for Disability Rights 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 300 Washington, DC 20004 Voice: 202-415-4753 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit Our Website: www.adawatch.org
109th Congress Congresswoman Grace Flores Napolitano, Chair
Tuesday, July 19, 2005 Contact: Imelda Aguirre (202) 225-2410
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Responds to Roberts Nomination to Supreme Court
Washington, DC – Following reports that President George W. Bush will nominate Judge John G. Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) expressed disappointment that the President did not nominate a Latino to fill the seat to be vacated by Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The CHC previously called on the President to fill the vacancy with a qualified Hispanic dedicated to equal justice and a judicial system that is fair to the Latino community.
"The CHC offers its sincere congratulations to John G. Roberts on his nomination to the Supreme Court. This is a great honor that he and his family should be immensely proud of,” said Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano, CHC chair. “However, we are disappointed that the White House bowed to pressure from right-wing interest groups and their mean-spirited attacks, and failed to take advantage of this opportunity to make a historic appointment of a Latino to a position of such importance to the lives of so many people.”
"Despite outward appearances, the unfortunate truth is that John G. Roberts was nominated without any meaningful bipartisan consultation between the White House and the Senate,” said Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, chair of the CHC Civil Rights Task Force. “While we are disappointed that the President overlooked several qualified Hispanic candidates, we will proceed with our plan to evaluate the nominee’s record on issues important to the Latino community and determine in due course whether he deserves our support.”
Following established criteria, the CHC will examine any nominee’s record of commitment to equal justice and right of access to the courts, his support for Congress’ constitutional authority to pass civil rights legislation, and his efforts in support of protecting employment, immigrant and voting rights, as well as educational and political access for all Americans.
While the CHC’s judicial nominee evaluation criteria were originally designed to help identify qualified Latinos to serve on federal courts, the CHC has decided to evaluate any nominee to the Supreme Court because of the enormous impact the Court’s decisions have on the nation’s growing Hispanic community.
Past Supreme Court rulings on the rights of immigrant workers, voting rights, affirmative action policies at colleges and universities, and bilingual education have had long-lasting and far-reaching affects on the lives of Latino families. Many of these rulings have been decided by one vote.
Immediately following Justice O’Connor’s retirement announcement, the CHC offered to work with President Bush to identify a qualified Hispanic nominee for the Supreme Court, and also urged the President to consult with Senators from both parties stating, “Not only is this consistent with the advice and consent clause of the U.S. Constitution, but also with the bipartisan agreement among Senators that resolved the filibuster controversy.”
“Any nominee, whether Hispanic or not, must understand the historic role the Supreme Court has played in the lives of minorities. It is our hope that Judge Roberts will prove to be committed to the core constitutional principles of equal protection and due process, and be sensitive to the laws that have opened doors for Hispanics and all minorities in this country,” said Congressman Linda T. Sánchez, vice chair of the CHC Civil Rights Task Force. “Furthermore, should another Supreme Court vacancy occur during President Bush’s term, we hope that the President will more strongly consider nominating a qualified Hispanic candidate to fill that seat, and we look forward to working with him to find that person.”
July 20, 2005 Contact: Sara Zdeb, 202-222-0728 Friends of the Earth Urges Caution, Careful Scrutiny of John Roberts' Environmental Record
Statement of Brent Blackwelder, President
It is crucial that our nation's highest court remain an independent body that will uphold the right of all Americans to have a clean environment. The Senate should exercise its constitutional advise and consent responsibility with thorough and deliberative scrutiny into Judge Roberts' views on the environment.
A recent case dealing with the Endangered Species Act raises troubling concerns about Roberts' commitment to upholding Congress' constitutional right to pass laws that protect our air, land and water. We urge the Senate to scrutinze Roberts' judicial record, to review his writings and to determine whether or not he will uphold the fundamental laws that protect our health and environment.
Protecting the environment has been challenging during the past four years, as an increasingly partisan Congress and White House attempt to reverse three decades of environmental progress. The courts have provided a breath of fresh air during this time, serving as an independent voice for enforcing the laws that protect the water we drink, air we breathe and lands we cherish. In this climate, it's more important than ever that our nation's highest court remain an independent body that will uphold these laws.
A look at some of the Court's recent decisions illustrates the pivotol role played by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in environmental decisions, showing just what's at stake as the Senate prepares to take up Roberts' nomination:
- Clean water. Friends of the Earth won a landmark decision in 2000, when the Court upheld the right of citizens to sue polluting companies who violate the Clean Water Act. An anti-environment majority could strip ordinary Americans of the ability to hold polluters accountable.
- Clean air. An anti-environment majority could strip the Environmental Protection Agency of the ability to ensure clean air for all Americans.
Justice O'Connor was the deciding vote in a case that upheld EPAs authority to prevent harmful air pollution when state agencies improperly fail to do so.
- Habitat protection. An anti-environment majority could restrict the federal government's ability to protect endangered species and their habitat. Justice O'Connor concurred with the majority in a decision that upheld prohibitions against habitat destruction that would harm endangered species.
The future of these issues and more hangs in the balance. We urge the Senate to proceed with caution, deliberation and careful scrutiny as it prepares to take up the nomination of John Roberts.
Sara Zdeb Legislative Director Friends of the Earth 202-222-0728 (fax)