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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Will Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts Receive Unanimous Support?

Will Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts Receive Unanimous Support?
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Will Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts Receive Unanimous Support?
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September 15, 2005

Will Chief Justice Nominee John Roberts Receive Unanimous Support?
Today, a fourth day of hearings will bring Americans closer to the ultimate decision that will inevitably shape the face of power in the Supreme Court over the next generation.

Chief Justice nominee John Roberts is a conservative who has so far in hearings, avoided giving specifics regarding his perspectives on a number of hot-button issues including abortion, equality, and certain freedoms.

Although Roberts has been challenged on what appears to be a consistently ultra-conservative history--nearly 75,000 pages of archived records place his 80s perspectives squarely in the camp of a Reagan conservative--he provided slightly more elaboration on his views on voting rights and affirmative action on Wednesday. This elaboration sparked the smallest hope that he may no longer ascribe to the extreme far right conservative position on these two hot-button issues. (Read Roberts on Affirmative Action on the Race Relations site to learn more about his record on this topic.)

A few specific examples from this week's hearings follow:

* When asked by Senator Edward Kennedy (a Democrat from Massachusetts) if he supports the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which outlawed segregation in public schools, Roberts replied, "Yes."
* When asked about the 1964 Voting Rights Act he said, "It is preservative, I think, of all the other rights. Without access to the ballot box, people are not in the position to protect any other rights that are important to them. And so I think it's one of, as you said, the most precious rights we have as Americans." His position on the Voting Rights law — a portion of which is set to expire in 2007 — has been a central concern to Democrats concerned that he will, as Chief Justice, hold rigidly conservative views that will reverse progress made on civil rights.
* When asked about the rights of state universities to consider race in making admission decisions, Roberts said it had been appropriate for the court to examine the positive effect of racial and ethnic diversity in the military as a basis for upholding an admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School. He also stated, ""You do need to look at the real-world impact in this area."


CNN reporters point out that some senators continue to caution that while his comments this week may hint at a more moderate position than those expressed in his earlier writings as a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration, they were so few and so cautiously phrased that ongoing concern regarding his overall refusal to be more forthcoming throughout the hearings is warranted.

Roberts, however, describes himself as a "modest judge," promises to approach the law with "a certain humility" as well as "an open mind," and tries to assure members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he has "no agenda."

The committee will vote next week on whether to recommend Roberts' nomination to the full Senate.

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