Roberts Speaks

by TChris

The NY Times faithfully reprints 55 pages of speeches given by members of the Senate Judiciary Committee today, proving only that this was their day, not John Roberts.’ Pages 55 to 57 (beginning here) reprint Judge Roberts’ opening statement. It is, as one would expect, unremarkable. He spoke of the virtues of precedent and of the limited role judges play in a political process. Judges, it seems, are little more than scriveners who consult the law and apply strict logic to resolve legal disputes in the most reasonable way. All true in theory, but choosing the most reasonable application or interpretation of a law often depends upon which of two or more competing policies the judge favors. If that weren’t true, smart and logical judges would all agree on the correct outcome in every case. The central role played by judicial philosophy (the collective policy preferences favored by an individual judge) went unacknowledged in today’s statement.

Attempting to forestall White House fears that his writings on behalf of the Solicitor General’s office would be cited as evidence of his personal views, Judge Roberts talked about his experience representing clients against the government, and suggested that any party can win a legal dispute if it has the law on its side. It isn’t that simple, of course, but Judge Roberts (like most other candidates for judicial office) wasn’t likely to acknowledge that personal views shape judicial philosophies that, in turn, help determine which party wins and which loses.

Judge Roberts invoked a famous phrase -- we are a government of laws and not of men -- and emphasized "the rule of law," which a dutiful judge divines from the texts "without fear or favor." He expressed appreciation for rights and liberties. He compared a judge to an umpire, although the more apt analogy might have been the Commissioner of Baseball, given the power to issue a final interpretation of the law that comes with a Supreme Court seat.

Judge Roberts’ statement was mercifully short and calculatedly uncontroversial. Its careful lack of substance is likely to be repeated in the answers he gives to the questions that will begin tomorrow. It will be interesting to see whether any senator is sufficiently skilled in the art of questioning to provoke a meaningful response.

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    Re: Roberts Speaks (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:44 PM EST
    and Senator Coburn keeps himself busy doing the crossword. Picture is here via atrios

    Re: Roberts Speaks (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:45 PM EST
    Also inappropriate is the idea that a President who has committed an endless string of impeachable offenses should be allowed to choose our Court.

    Re: Roberts Speaks (none / 0) (#3)
    by glanton on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:48 PM EST
    I've been streamlining Roberts' hearing on my computer at work, and while I knew he wouldn't answer questions about Roe, his refusal still bothers me more than I thought it would. It says something about the abortion debate that efforts to criminalize it have to be accomplished by stealth. Ginsburg, like the President who appointed her, always spoke directly about the issue, saying she would uphold Roe. Yet, even though everyone knows part of Bush's project in appointing justices is to demolish Roe, he won't say it. The GOP strategy in a nutshell: wait until you get power, then unleash your agenda. But never, never be honest about what you wanna do.