[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that President Bush will nominate federal appeals court judge John G. Roberts for the US Supreme Court seat opened by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, according to Washington sources. Roberts, a former law clerk to Chief Justice William Rehnquist, currently sits on the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals, which offers this official biographical sketch:
Judge Roberts was confirmed by the Senate to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on May 8, 2003, and sworn in on June 2 by Chief Justice Rehnquist. Judge Roberts graduated from Harvard College in 1976, and received his law degree in 1979 from Harvard Law School. Following graduation from law school, he served as law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the following year to then-Associate Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Roberts served as Special Assistant to United States Attorney General William French Smith from 1981 to 1982 and Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1986. He then joined Hogan & Hartson where he developed a civil litigation practice, with an emphasis on appellate matters. From 1989 to 1993 he served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He returned to Hogan & Hartson in 1993. At the time of his confirmation, Judge Roberts was the senior partner in charge of Hogan & Hartson's appellate practice. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers.Legal Times provides a more in-depth profile. SCOTUSblog's Supreme Court nominations blog provides additional materials, including a brief review of notable opinions. The Harvard Crimson provides a look back at Roberts' days as a student at Harvard College and Harvard Law School.
Roberts' nomination to the DC Circuit was blocked for two years by Democrats before coming up for a vote in 2003. Prior to his confirmation, rights umbrella organization Alliance for Justice [advocacy website] issued a scathing report [PDF] on him, saying he had
a record of hostility to the rights of women and minorities. He has also taken controversial positions in favor of weakening the separation of church and state and limiting the role of federal courts in protecting the environment....While working under Presidents Reagan and Bush, Mr. Roberts supported a hard-line, anti-civil rights policy that opposed affirmative action, would have made it nearly impossible for minorities to prove a violation of the Voting Rights Act and would have resegregated Americas public schools. He also took strongly anti-choice positions in two Supreme Court cases, one that severely restricted the ability of poor women to gain information about abortion services, and another that took away a key means for women and clinics to combat anti-abortion zealots.Roberts was opposed for his appeals court seat by a range of rights and women's groups, including Feminist Majority, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America [report on nominee, PDF], and the National Organization for Women [report on nominee]. The conservative Free Congress Foundation [advocacy website] offered a more favorable assessment of Roberts in 2001, soon after his initial nomination. After confirmation hearings on January 23 [transcript, PDF] and April 30 [transcript, PDF] 2003, his nomination was ultimately approved 14-3 by the Senate Judiciary Committee and cleared the Senate floor by consensus without a roll call vote; then-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch spoke in support of Roberts [Hatch transcript] at his January nomination hearing, and again in April [Hatch transcript].
The liberal People for the American Way [advocacy website] recently offered a report [PDF] on Roberts that includes an assessment of his appeals court performance since 2003, concluding that
Robertss record is a disturbing one. Among other things, is hostile to womens reproductive freedom, and he has taken positions in religious liberty and free speech cases that were detrimental to those fundamental rights. Roberts has limited judicial experience, but even his short tenure as a judge raises serious concerns about his ideology and judicial philosophy. For example, dissenting opinions by Roberts have questioned the constitutionality of the Endangered Species Act and argued that Americans tortured by Iraq when it was a terrorist state can receive no compensation. This preliminary review of Robertss record indicates that it falls far short of demonstrating the commitment to fundamental civil and constitutional rights that should be shown by a Supreme Court nominee.President Bush is expected to announce Judge Roberts as his nominee at the White House at 9 PM ET. More information will shortly be posted here on the White House website.