Judge John Roberts
When it comes to insisting Supreme Court nominees discuss how they would rule on future cases, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has apparently done a philosophical U-turn.
The senator has been vocal recently about President Bush’s nominee John Roberts, saying the federal judge “will be expected to answer fully” any questions about his views on controversial issues; but the Democrat sang a different tune in 1967, when he noted that candidates should “defer any comments” on such matters.
In a story titled “Kennedy Flip-Flops on Quizzing High Court Nominees” by Jeff Johnson, Cybercast News Service reports it obtained 38-year-old film footage of Kennedy, who was responding to a question about senators grilling Thurgood Marshall about how he might rule in future cases should he be on the nation’s highest court.
Sen. Edward Kennedy on Saturday Evening Post in 1965
“We have to respect that any nominee to the Supreme Court would have to defer any comments on any matters, which are either before the court or very likely to be before the court,” Kennedy said during the 1967 press conference. “This has been a procedure which has been followed in the past and is one which I think is based upon sound legal precedent.”
At that time, Marshall was President Lyndon Johnson’s solicitor general, after having served as an attorney for the NAACP. He was ultimately confirmed by a vote of 69 to 11.
On July 20 of this year, Kennedy delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate in which he seemed to contradict the notion of deferring any comments, saying that senators “must not fail in our duty to the American people to responsibly examine Judge Roberts’ legal views.”
“Because Judge Roberts has written relatively few opinions in his brief tenure as a judge, his views on a wide variety of vital issues are still unknown,” Kennedy stated. “What little we know about his views and values lends even greater importance and urgency to his responsibility to provide the Senate and the American people with clear answers.”
Kennedy provided examples of positions Roberts argued while representing both private clients, as well as the United States, as he served as deputy solicitor general for the administration of President George H. W. Bush.
“Judge Roberts represented clients in each of these cases, but we have a duty to ask where he stands on these issues,” Kennedy continued. “I join my colleagues in the hope that the process will proceed with dignity. But the nominee will be expected to answer fully, so that the American people will know whether Judge Roberts will uphold their rights.”