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July 19, 2005

Don't Judge His Words, He Was a Partisan Hack

Judge Roberts has written thousands of pages of legal opinion in his career, including years in Reagan's Department of Justice and White House Counsel's Office and Bush I's Solicitor General's Office. 

So why is he considered a blank slate?

Because we aren't supposed to judge what he said in those years, since he was working for other people.  Or so argues his defenders such as Juan at the Volokh Conspiracy, who says you can't ascribe any personal views to words Roberts wrote:

Attorneys have an ethical obligation to zealously advocate the position of their clients. An attorney in Roberts position had an express duty to advance his client’s – the federal government's – policy position as effectively as possible...The idea that the specific language used in a legal brief advancing his client’s position establishes Roberts' personal views is quite a stretch.

Of course, deciding to spend years working for this particular client, the Reagan administration, says a lot about Roberts' personal views, but Juan is right in one sense: Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.   Whatever he said was done to advance his career with no intellectual integrity, since according to his defenders, he didn't believe a word he said. 

So if his career is one of years of political hack partisanship, sprinkled with a few years acting as a well-paid hack on behalf of corporate interests, why should we believe Roberts has the temperment to be an independent Justice? 

He's been a hired gun for his whole adult career, save the last two years on the DC Circuit-- which now appears just to have been a chance to grease the wheels for his elevation to the Supreme Court as part of the Bush political team. 

Roberts is reportedly a smart guy and probably loves puppies, but the Supreme Court is not supposed to be the preserve of one party stuffing it with partisan hacks to advance a rightwing agenda.  Cause let's be clear, "zealous advocate" is just a nice word for a partisan hack with a legal briefcase.   And there's nothing wrong with plaintiffs and defendants having those partisans on each side-- they balance each other out. 

But the Supreme Court Justice's inner chambers where they write the decisions is not a realm of "zealous advocacy" but of nine Justices independently voting on the state of the law in this country.  Anyone who wants to sit in those chambers should have a real vision of where that law is and should be able to explain what it is.  And we as voters and our Senators should know what each Justice's vision of the law entails before they are confirmed.

If the words Roberts wrote for all his clients don't reflect work upon which he should be evaluated, then the two years on the bench is too little experience to be confirmed. 

And if all John Roberts can say is, sorry, I've been a partisan hack for twenty-five years, so I don't have any vision that I can talk about -- well, that's not good enough either and he should be rejected. 

Posted by Nathan at July 19, 2005 10:36 PM