John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney?

Law Prof Eric Muller at Is That Legal takes issue with Judge John Roberts position that early in his career he was just a staff lawyer who didn't make policy decisions and just argued the way he was told.

....we are talking here about a man who left a clerkship with then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist to become a Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States under President Reagan, and who left that position to join the White House staff as Associate Counsel to the President.

These are no ordinary "staff attorney" positions. Nobody gets jobs of this sort just by being a talented young lawyer (as they do at the D.A.'s office, the Public Defender's Office, or the litigation firm downtown). These are, in their nature, ideological positions.

People for the American Way also scoffs at the claim that Roberts' position as Deputy Principal Solicitor General during Bush I was not an ideological position (received by e-mail):

During his Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, John Roberts has tried to create the impression that, as principal deputy solicitor general under George H.W. Bush, he was merely acting as a lawyer on behalf of a client, the Bush I administration, and that he did not play an important role in fashioning the controversial views expressed in briefs he signed. This is a preposterous claim, given the nature of the principal deputy solicitor general position and given what Roberts did while in that role.

...According to the New York Times, the main function of the “political deputy” was to see to it “that cases argued before the Supreme Court conform to the administration’s political agenda.”1 [Neil A. Lewis, “The 1992 Campaign: Selection of Conservative Judges Insures a President’s Legacy,” New York Times (July 1, 1992); accord, Maralee Schwartz and Al Kamen, “Starr’s ‘Political’ Deputy,” Washington Post, The Federal Page, A25 (Sept. 22, 1989).]

As I noted here, the Wall Street Journal reported (free link):

According to Judge Roberts himself, promoting law and order -- a bedrock priority of Republican presidents since Richard M. Nixon -- marked his years in the solicitor general's office, at least as much as limiting abortion rights or opposing racial set-asides. That stance set apart the policies of a "conservative Republican solicitor general" from a "liberal Democratic one," he wrote in a 1993 opinion article published in The Wall Street Journal.

Roberts is going to be confirmed. Bush won the election, he gets to pick. We could have gotten someone a lot worse. But here's what we can do about it: Make sure that a Democrat wins in 2008.

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    Re: John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney? (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:50 PM EST
    ok, let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that this is all true. i don't know if it is or isn't, but for this, we'll assume that it is. my question: so f'ing what? will this cause the democrats to filibuster? nope, not f'ing likely. will this in any way, shape or form present the remotest possibility that judge roberts will not be confirmed by the senate with, at minimum, a 55-45 vote? again, not f'ing likely. so, who cares, and why? state your answer in 50 words or less. this will become part of your permanent record.

    Re: John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:50 PM EST
    By that argument, Ruth Bade Ginsberg should never have gotten on the court. It's time TL woke up, and realized that we had an election on this sort of thing in 2004 - and your side lost. You get to try again in 2006 and 2008.

    Re: John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney? (none / 0) (#3)
    by Peter G on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:50 PM EST
    Sorry, James, but you missed the point of the post (as did cpinva), perhaps intentionally. The post suggests -- with documentation, which you ignore -- that Judge Roberts is dissembling when he suggests that as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General, otherwise known as the "Political Deputy," he was just a "hired gun" lawyer who did not make or necessarily endorse the policies that he advocated on behalf of the Administration before the Supreme Court. (48 words) The Senate may not care whether a prospective Chief Justice is less than truthful while answering questions under oath, and you also may not care. But that is the point of the post. Got it?

    Re: John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:50 PM EST
    He's deliberately misrepresenting his positions in the previous administrations. C'mon folks, he's a political hack. Conservative republican bred through and through. Roberts is going to be confirmed. Bush won the election, he gets to pick Sad but so true. What's so tragic is that Our Pet Chimp gets to pick, at the very least, two permanent members of the SCOTUS. The most fanatical president EVER with two openings. The mind boggles. It surely is something to witness. We could have gotten someone a lot worse Time will tell.

    Re: John Roberts: Just a Staff Attorney? (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:03:51 PM EST
    I didn't miss anything. When your side gets a majority in the Senate, you get to make decisions on court appointees. Until then, all you get to do is decide whether or not to look like sore losers by pitching a filibuster. It's all about elections, and your side lost - in Senate terms, convincingly.