Wednesday, July 20, 2005

John Roberts

Most of this post was written by and taken from the Alliance For Justice. My additions are in italics. Also good to note, I'm not Jennifer, I'm her roommate. It just seemed she needed to update and this was an important event to update about.

John Roberts
Nominated to: Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Status of nomination: Confirmed 5/8/2003
May 8, 2003: The Committee voted out Roberts 16-3.
Alliance for Justice Resources:
Alliance for Justice to Senators Hatch and Leahy Re: Deborah Cook and John
Alliance For Justice Full Report on John Roberts

·Born 1955, Buffalo, NY
·B.A., 1976, summa cum laude & J.D., 1979, magna cum laude, Harvard
·1979-80, Clerk for Judge Friendly, Second Circuit
·1980-81, Clerk, Associate Justice Rehnquist, Supreme Court
·U.S. Department of Justice
o1981-81, Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith
o1989-93, Principal Deputy Solicitor General
·1982-86, White House Counsel's Office, Associate Counsel to the President
·Hogan & Hartson, LLP, Washington, DC
o1986-89, Associate
o1993-present, Partner

General Background. Mr. Roberts, a partner at the D.C. law firm Hogan & Hartson, has long-standing and deep connections to the Republican Party. He is a member of the Republican National Lawyers Association and worked as a political appointee in both the Reagan and Bush I administrations. President George H.W. Bush nominated Mr. Roberts to the D.C. Circuit, but he was considered by some on the Senate Judiciary Committee to be too extreme in his views, and his nomination lapsed. He was nominated by President George W. Bush to the same seat in May 2001.

Reproductive Rights. s a Deputy Solicitor General, Mr. Roberts co-wrote a Supreme Court brief in Rust v. Sullivan,1 for the first Bush administration, which argued that the government could prohibit doctors in federally-funded family planning programs from discussing abortions with their patients. The brief not only argued that the regulations were constitutional, notwithstanding the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, but it also made the broader argument that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided - an argument unnecessary to defend the regulation. The Supreme Court sided with the government on the narrower grounds that the regulation was constitutional.

Environmental Issues. As a student, Mr. Roberts wrote two law review articles arguing for an expansive reading of the Contracts and Takings clauses of the Constitution, taking positions that would restrict Congress' ability to protect the environment. As a member of the Solicitor General's office, Mr. Roberts was the lead counsel for the United States in the Supreme Court case Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, in which the government argued that private citizens could not sue the federal government for violations of environmental regulations.

As a lawyer in private practice, Mr. Roberts has also represented large corporate interests opposing environmental controls. He submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the National Mining Association in the recent case Bragg v. West Virginia Coal Association. 3 In this case, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit reversed a district court ruling that had stopped the practice of "mountaintop removal" in the state of West Virginia. Citizens of West Virginia who were adversely affected by the practice had sued the state, claiming damage to both their homes and the surrounding area generally. Three Republican appointees - Judges Niemeyer, Luttig, and Williams - held that West Virginia's issuance of permits to mining companies to extract coal by blasting the tops off of mountains and depositing the debris in nearby valleys and streams did not violate the 1977 Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.4 This decision was greeted with great dismay by environmental groups. In another case, Roberts represented one of several intervenors in a case challenging the EPAÂ’s promulgation of rules to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions.5

Just thought I would include this quote from Al Franken speaking about West Virginia mountain top removal mentioned above…Griles is J. Steven Griles, the deputy secretary of the interior.
“When miners detonated mountain ridges, filling in valleys and burying streams with trees, rocks, and thirteen species of songbird, they also sent boulders flying into local houses. As you can imagine, neighbors complained, not just about the boulders, but also about the choking dust.
Griles’s inconsiderate behavior did not end with the boulders or the asthma-inducing debris. United Company set up huge coal-loading machines that ran twenty-four hours a day, right next to homes.
For years, a number of regulations have interfered with the ability of mining companies to remove mountaintops. For example, until recently, it’s been illegal to dump the mountaintop into a nearby stream or river. The Bush administration has changed all that, by rewriting the Clean Water act’s rules to allow mining waste to be dumped directly into many heretofore off-limits waterways.”
Back to the show:

Civil Rights. After a Supreme Court decision effectively nullified certain sections of the Voting Rights Act, Roberts was involved in the Reagan administration's effort to prevent Congress from overturning the Supreme Court's action.6 The Supreme Court had recently decided that certain sections of the Voting Rights Act could only be violated by intentional discrimination and not by laws that had a discriminatory effect, despite a lack of textual basis for this interpretation in the statute. Roberts was part of the effort to legitimize that decision and to stop Congress from overturning it.

I pulled a few quotes from the SC’s opinion, basically a summary of the problem and solution:

"At issue in this case is the constitutionality of the city of Mobile's commission form of government. Black citizens in Mobile, who constitute a minority of that city's registered voters, challenged the at-large nature of the elections for the three positions of City Commissioner, contending that the system "dilutes" their votes in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment....
"As MR. JUSTICE STEWART points out, Mobile's basic election system is the same as that followed by literally thousands of municipalities and other governmental units throughout the Nation. Ante at 60. [n14] The fact that these at-large systems [p93] characteristically place one or more minority groups at a significant disadvantage in the struggle for political power cannot invalidate all such systems. See Whitcomb v. Chavis, 403 U.S. at 156-160. Nor can it be the law that such systems are valid when there is no evidence that they were instituted or maintained for discriminatory reasons, but that they may be selectively condemned on the basis of the subjective motivation of some of their supporters. A contrary view "would spawn endless litigation concerning the multi-member district systems now widely employed in this country," id. at 157, and would entangle the judiciary in voracious political thicket. [n15] [p94]
"In sum, I believe we must accept the choice to retain Mobile's commission form of government as constitutionally permissible even though that choice may well be the product of mixed motivation, some of which is invidious. For these reasons I concur in the judgment of reversal."

By the bye, in 1961 SC ruling (1961, earlier than 1980 and therefore referred to as precedent) Justice Clark stated “…no State may effectively abdicate its responsibilities by either ignoring them or by merely failing to discharge them whatever the motive may be. It is of no consolation to an individual denied the equal protection of the laws that it was done in good faith."

Religion in Schools. While working with the Solicitor General's office, Mr. Roberts co-wrote an amicus brief on behalf of the Bush administration, in which he argued that public high schools can include religious ceremonies in their graduation programs, a view the Supreme Court rejected.7

I couldn’t find Roberts’s amicus brief, but I do have Justice Scalia’s (Scalia 4 Chief Justice!!!) dissenting opinion which represents Roberts’s side. This was funny so I had to include it. Scalia’s last sentence is “[t]o deprive our society of that important unifying mechanism in order to spare the nonbeliever what seems to me the minimal inconvenience of standing, or even sitting in respectful nonparticipation, is as senseless in policy as it is unsupported in law.” Right, nonparticipation = unity, thanks, go it.

Pro Bono. Mr. Roberts has engaged in significant pro bono work while at Hogan and Hartson, including representation of indigent clients and criminal defendants.

Other Information. Mr. Roberts is a member of two prominent, right-wing legal groups that promote a pro-corporate, anti-regulatory agenda: the Federalist Society and the National Legal Center For The Public Interest, serving on the latter group's Legal Advisory Council.

For more info on these groups go to and read some of the articles or to to view the sparkling membership list or read an exciting quote.

1 500 U.S. 173 (1991).
2 497 U.S. 871 (1990).
3 248 F.3d 275 (4th Cir. 2001).
4 30 U.S.C. §1201.
5 State of Michigan v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 254 F.3d 1087 (Fed. Cir. 2001).
6 See City of Mobile v. Bolden 446 U.S. 55 (1980).
7 Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992).

No comments: