John Roberts appears to be very conservative, far to the right of the opinion of the majority of Americans and to the right of the majority of the already conservative court. He is not the person itismyopinion would select for Chief Justice of the United States, if we were given the choice.
However, we were not given the choice. The choice belongs to George Bush, who will appoint someone acceptable to his far right base. If the Senate does not confirm Roberts, Bush will simply appoint another conservative, and probably someone less desirable than Judge Roberts.
There are several important points to consider about Judge Roberts:
He will be replacing the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Because Rehnquist was one of the three most conservative justices, his replacement by Roberts will not move the court to the right. Roberts may even be more moderate than Rehnquist.
Roberts is very qualified. He has experience, from being a clerk to Justice Rehnquist, and writing many briefs and arguing many cases before the Supreme Court, and serving as a judge on the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.
Roberts has told the Senate of his respect for precedent (stare decisis) and his belief that there is a constitutional right to privacy. This indicates that he might not vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and destroy constitutional protection to the right to abortion. We don’t know how he will vote, but we do know that Chief Justice Rehnquist would favor overturning Roe. Most likely any other nominee by President Bush would favor destroying the right to abortion.
Unlike Justices Scalia and Thomas, Roberts is not an “originalist” who believes that the constitution should be interpreted just as the framers would interpret it.
Another reason for Democrats to vote to confirm Roberts is political. There is no question that Roberts will be confirmed; the Republicans are in the majority in the Senate, and it does not appear that 40 Democratic Senators will join a filibuster. However, confirmation is not the only issue. Both the President and the nominee would much prefer a strong vote for confirmation than a close vote. If the Democrats vote against confirmation, why should Bush nominate someone of Roberts’ quality when he could just as well nominate a less qualified but more right wing justice who will receive the same close Senate vote but will excite the president’s far right wing base.
see Washington Post editorial