[Mb-civic] A Bigger Test Than Roberts - David Broder - Washington
swiggard at comcast.net
Thu Sep 8 03:51:23 PDT 2005
A Bigger Test Than Roberts
By David S. Broder
Thursday, September 8, 2005; Page A29
The tests for John Roberts do not really change with the decision by
President Bush to nominate him as chief justice of the Supreme Court,
rather than as a replacement for Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
If anything, it makes Roberts easier to confirm, while increasing the
stakes on the second vacancy Bush now has to fill.
The personal qualities that would have assured Roberts of a warm welcome
from his colleagues on the bench -- his high intellect, work ethic, good
humor and friendliness -- will serve him well as the court's presiding
It is true that at 50, he is far younger than most of the justices and
far junior to them as a writer of opinions, with only two years of
appeals court service behind him. But he has demonstrated his literary
craftsmanship in the memos from his years in the Justice Department and
the White House counsel's office. The members of the court know him
favorably from his many appearances as an advocate. And he is skilled
enough in human relationships to show respect for his elders.
He also seems well equipped for the public role a chief justice plays as
the personification of the judiciary. The man he would succeed, William
Rehnquist, contributed mightily to the institution with his quiet,
persistent affirmation of the independence and integrity of judges.
Whether the criticism of the courts came from the left or the right,
Rehnquist insisted that the judiciary be treated with respect -- and
Roberts, who was his clerk and is his admirer, seems certain to maintain
that vital tradition.
The relevant questions for the Senate focus entirely on his view of the
Constitution and the role of the courts. Everything we know about
Roberts suggests that he will be an advocate of judicial restraint,
hewing closely to precedent and to a narrow interpretation of federal
authority. Because of the close proximity of his views to those of
Rehnquist, a court headed by Roberts is likely to function in the same
centrist-conservative dimension as the Supreme Court has in recent years.
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