Skip to comments.Roberts' early writings argue against judicial activism - (believed safely conservative)
Posted on 07/28/2005 4:32:58 PM PDT by CHARLITE
WASHINGTON - Thousands of pages of newly released documents from John Roberts' first government job show a highly intelligent, politically savvy young man, wrestling with charged legal and political issues on behalf of the deeply conservative Reagan administration.
As a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith in 1981 and 1982, Roberts advocated positions and drafted memos on issues from judicial restraint to voting rights to affirmative action, which were as controversial then as they are now that Roberts is no longer a twenty-something aide but a nominee for a seat on the Supreme Court.
Roberts generally took strongly conservative positions, often with a pointed tone, although it is often difficult to tell if the views are his own or those of the powerful individuals for whom he was drafting speeches, articles and memos. But taken together, they suggest he was on his way to becoming the kind of conservative jurist President Bush said he would nominate to the Supreme Court.
The Bush administration released roughly 14,000 pages of documents Tuesday as it sought to deflect Democratic demands for documents from Roberts' three stints in Republican administrations.
But the document release did little to calm the dispute. Democrats are especially interested in documents from Roberts' tenure in the solicitor general's office under President George H.W. Bush, but the White House is resisting that request.
In an undated memo from the documents released Tuesday, Roberts cited ''what is broadly perceived to be the unprincipled jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade,'' the landmark case establishing the constitutional right to an abortion. But given the way the memo is written, it is possible he is attributing that view to a group of scholars and not to himself.
Roberts spent a significant amount of time, the documents suggest, grappling with calls on Capitol Hill to curtail the power of the Supreme Court in the wake of liberal rulings on busing, school prayer and abortion.
In what appears to be his handwriting, one note in the margin of a memo on that topic concludes, ''real courage would be to read the Constitution as it should be read and not kowtow'' to liberal law professors and journalists.
But as Democrats complain they do not know enough about Roberts' views, some conservatives have voiced their own concerns that Roberts may not be sufficiently conservative once on the court.
In a February 1982 memo preparing for a speech by the attorney general, Roberts challenged criticism that the Reagan administration was appointing too many judges who did not share conservative views. He argued it was more important to find nominees who would exercise restraint as judges.
''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 - i.e., so long as they believe in judicial restraint,'' he wrote.
Roberts literally began preparing for a Supreme Court confirmation on his first day at the Justice Department in August 1981, when he joined the team preparing Sandra Day O'Connor for hearings on her nomination to the court.
A memo he wrote soon afterward to Kenneth Starr, then a counselor to the attorney general, offers a glimpse of the future nominee's approach to surviving congressional scrutiny.
''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.
One of Roberts' early tasks was to craft speeches and position papers arguing for narrowing the conditions under which prisoners could use the habeas corpus process to challenge their confinement.
''The current availability of federal habeas corpus, particularly for state prisoners, goes far to making a mockery of the entire criminal justice system,'' he began the November 1981 memo suggesting ways to cut down on such filings.
I have never read anything he has writen, but Bush picked him and he is my man.
But remember, the President has access to everything Roberts wrote in his Solicitor General and White House counsel time. That, to me, has been the key all along.