by Steven Ertelt
July 26, 2005
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The White House on Tuesday indicated it would release some, but not all, of the memos and papers sought by Senate Democrats about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts’ involvement in two past presidential administrations. The Democrats hope the papers shed more light on his views on key issues such as abortion.
Bush administration officials said they would release some papers, but not those associated with cases that Roberts argued at the high court for the first Bush administration.
At issue is a legal brief filed in a Supreme Court case that argued Roe v. Wade, the decision that legalized unlimited abortion, was faulty and should be overturned. Senate Democrats want to know if that line of thought was Roberts’ or if he was merely representing the views of former President Bush.
The National Archives released some of the documents Tuesday and, at the urging of Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, the Reagan presidential library will be releasing others.
In all, 75,000 pages of writings from Roberts’ work in the Reagan administration, where he was a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith and in the White House counsel’s office, would be turned over to the committee, according to White House press secretary Scott McClellan.
"What we are providing goes above and beyond what a reasonable person would expect to be made available,” he said at a press briefing. "This is more than what senators need to be able to do their job.”
McClellan said that the work Roberts performed for Bush as the principal deputy solicitor general is subject to attorney-client privilege.
Senate Democrats, such as Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the judicial panel, claim similar papers were released when the Senate considered the Chief Justice nomination for William Rehnquist.
But McClellan said that would bring up problems.
"Democratic and Republican solicitor generals have said that to make that information available would really stifle their ability to have a candid and independent and honest assessment from attorneys in their office,” he said. "These future solicitor generals might as well put up a sign that says ‘do not apply’ if you are thinking about going through a Senate confirmation process.”
Whether Democrats in the Senate will be happy with that response remains to be seen. They perviously filibustered the appeals court nomination of Miguel Estrada because the White House would not hand over all of the materials they sought.
"I’d hate to see us get into a battle over whether the administration was going to share documents instead of the basic question of, ‘Is Judge Roberts deserving of confirmation to be a justice of the United States Supreme Court,’" Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Monday after meeting with Roberts.
McClellan says he hopes to avoid a showdown over the paperwork.
"We intend to work closely with the Senate Judiciary Committee to make sure that they have the appropriate information that they need to do their job," he concluded.