Documents on John Roberts Show Judicial Insight, Abortion View

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 27, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Documents on John Roberts Show Judicial Insight, Abortion View Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 27, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Some of the documents on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts that the White House released to members of the Senate give an insight into the kind of judicial temperament that he may display should he be confirmed to the nation’s high court. The documents show Roberts favors judicial restraint as opposed to activism from the bench.

At the top of the list of issues observers are watching is abortion and an undated memo released Tuesday shows Roberts discussing "what is broadly perceived to be the unprincipled jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade."

However, the way the memo is written makes it difficult to determine if Roberts is addressing his own views or those of someone else.

One 1982 document, describing internal communications in the Reagan administration, has Roberts advising Attorney General William French Smith on a meeting with conservative leaders about Reagan’s judicial appointments.

Smith was preparing to hear some criticism about the appointees and Roberts suggested the White House "shift the debate and briefly touch on our judicial restraint themes."

"It really should not matter what the personal ideology of our appointees may be, so long as they recognize that their ideology should have no role in the decisional process," Roberts wrote.

Another document reveals Roberts’ response to calls from members of Congress to curtail judicial activism. He writes, "real courage would be to read the Constitution as it should be read and not kowtow" to liberals in academia or law.

Another document from Roberts’ tenure with the Reagan administration shows him discussing his work to prepare former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor for her confirmation hearings. They provide some insight into how he may handle his own.

"The approach was to avoid giving specific responses to any direct questions on legal issues likely to come before the court, but demonstrating in the response a firm command of the subject area and awareness of the relevant precedents and arguments," he wrote.

Democrats are unhappy with the amount of documents they have been given, saying that they need more than the thousands the White House has made available in order to make an informed decision about Roberts.

"The White House should make all relevant documents available so that the Senate can make an informed decision," pro-abortion Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said.

Late Tuesday, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee sent the White House a letter, according to the Chicago Tribune, expressing their dissatisfaction.

"It is far too early to determine whether these documents are relevant, adequate or even helpful," the senators wrote of those released Tuesday. "We believe judgment should be withheld on which and how many documents regarding this nominee might be released to the Senate."