Supreme Court nominee John Roberts
Some conservative Christian backers of John Roberts are expressing unease about a report that President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court donated his time to homosexual activists, but none have withdrawn support.
“I’m not concerned about it at all,” Jay Sekulow, the White House’s point man for rallying faith-based conservatives behind Roberts, told WorldNetDaily.
Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said he’s received telephone calls from concerned leaders asking, “Is this indicative of how [Roberts] is going to rule?”
Sekulow said his response has been: “I would not draw that conclusion.”
The White House also has been on the phone, immediately telephoning prominent leaders to reassure them after the Los Angeles Times story yesterday said Roberts helped represent “gay rights” activists as part of his law firm’s pro bono work. While the nominee did not actually argue the case before the high court, several lawyers familiar with it say he was instrumental in reviewing filings and preparing oral arguments.
The Supreme Court ruling was decided on a 6-3 vote, with Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissenting. Bush repeatedly has said he would nominate Supreme Court justices in the mold of Thomas and Scalia. The ruling in Romer v. Evans struck down a voter-approved 1992 Colorado initiative that nullified “gay rights” measures in the state.
The Times points out Roberts has stressed that a client’s views are not necessarily shared by the lawyer who argues on his or her behalf, so the nominee could claim he did not agree with the homosexual activists he helped.
Walter A. Smith Jr., then head of the pro bono department at Hogan & Hartson, told the paper Roberts didn’t hesitate to take the case: “He said, ‘Let’s do it.’ And it’s illustrative of his open-mindedness, his fair-mindedness. He did a brilliant job.”
Sekulow emphasized that Roberts’ firm made the decision to take the case, and the nominee simply helped on a moot court, preparing lawyers for oral arguments.
“In the Supreme Court practice there is a high level of collegiality,” he said.
Yesterday, radio talk host Rush Limbaugh told listeners, “There’s no question this is going to upset people on the right. There’s no question the people on the right are going to say: ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute! The guy is doing pro bono work and helping gay activists?’”
But on today’s show, Limbaugh focused on the source of the Times story, calling it a desperate attempt by the left to drive a wedge between Roberts and conservatives, because the nominee can’t be stopped.
Janice Crouse – senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America – told WorldNetDaily her group does not, at this point, see Roberts’ involvement in the case as a serious problem.
“We certainly have questions, but the evidence thus far does not cause us to take away any support,” she told WND.
Crouse said Roberts’ activity would be expected of a person in his position.
“This was a very minor incident, a matter of fulfilling responsibilities as a partner in a major law firm,” she said. “If it appears that this is a matter of a pattern, that would be a concern.”
Echoing Limbaugh, Crouse thinks the story likely was generated by a political motivation – to divide the Christian community.
“It’s a matter of the left being desperate to throw something at a man who appears to be exceptionally well qualified and committed to interpreting the Constitution as written,” she said.
Brian Fahling, senior trial attorney for the American Family Association Center for Law & Policy, told WND he has read enough of Roberts’ opinions to know that the judge’s involvement in the Romer case does not undermine his commitment to judicial restraint.
“I am absolutely convinced that this does not suggest differently,” Fahling said.
But Fahling added that, personally speaking, he could never be involved in such a case.
“It seems [Roberts is] a faithful Catholic, and for him to be on the front end of a case that literally put a dagger squarely into the moral heart of America – there are as some incongruities there,” Fahling said.
James Dobson’s Focus on the Family Action issued a statement saying that while the report “is certainly not welcome news to those of us who advocate for traditional values, it is by no means a given that John Roberts’ personal views are reflected in his involvement in this case.”
The group said, “At the time of Romer v. Evans, Roberts was a private-practice attorney expected by his firm to do pro-bono legal work. However, it is worth noting that it was not Roberts who recommended taking on this case; his minimal involvement was requested by a colleague, who served as the lead attorney, because that colleague so respected Roberts’ legal acumen.
“That’s what lawyers do – represent their firm’s clients, whether they agree with what those clients stand for or not. Nothing we’ve read … alters our belief that Judge Roberts deserves a fair hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and a timely up-or-down confirmation vote in the full Senate. We look forward to him being given the opportunity during his hearing to discuss his role in the Romer case, and all of his relevant experience, so that senators can make an informed decision on his nomination.”
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, “As a former policy maker and now full-time advocate for family values, my first thought in response to the LA Times story was ‘aiding and abetting,’ which I would venture to say is how many of our supporters would see this news. However, I urge caution in jumping to that conclusion.
Perkins argued Roberts was an attorney with a large firm where helping colleagues when called upon was expected.
“Attorneys are not necessarily advocates or activists,” he said. “In fact, activists are exactly what we don’t want on the court.”
Perkins said he spent most of yesterday “on the phone and in meetings to get the facts.”
“I have verified that his involvement was limited to about five hours of participation in a moot court as he played the role of one of the High Court’s conservative members asking tough hypothetical questions of the attorneys who actually prepared and argued the case.”
Perkins said stories already are beginning to circulate about the motives behind one of the main sources of the LA Times story who is no longer with the law firm and is now with a left-leaning advocacy organization in Washington.
“I remain confident that President Bush understands that his legacy in large part will be determined by whom he places on the Supreme Court,” Perkins said.
But Perkins said his group intends to be heavily involved in the confirmation process, to “as Ronald Reagan said, ‘Trust, but verify’” Roberts’ record.
Mat Staver, who argued a Ten Commandments case before the Supreme Court earlier this year, said he believes Roberts’ involvement in the case needs to be addressed.
“The fact that it was pro bono work – which is voluntary – should be of concern,” Staver told Baptist Press.
Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, said at Roberts’ level, “you wouldn’t be working on a project in a firm that you disagreed with.”
Roberts’ questionnaire has been reassuring to conservatives. He said “it is not part of the judicial function to make the law” and “courts should not intrude into areas of policy making reserved by the Constitution to the political branches.”
Judges, he said, “must be constantly aware that their role, while important, is limited. They do not have a commission to solve society’s problems, as they see them, but simply to decide cases before them according to the rule of law.”
One of the few conservatives to express reservations about Roberts after his nomination – Colleen Parro, executive director of the Republican National Coalition for Life – said his work on the Romer case was “cause for more caution and less optimism” about his nomination.
Immediately after Bush’s announcement of his high-court selection, the support for Roberts virtually was unanimous among Christian conservatives.
- Dobson said Bush “is to be commended for keeping his promise to the American people by selecting such an impartial, accomplished jurist to fill this crucial seat on the high court.”
- Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, said, “We are believing that President Bush kept his campaign promise today when he nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court. We are trusting that Judge Roberts is in the mold of Supreme Court justices who President Bush promised to appoint to the Supreme Court: such as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.”
- Jan LaRue, chief counsel of Christian Women for America, said, “Everything we know about Judge Roberts tells us that he fulfills the president’s promise to nominate a judge who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not legislate from the bench.”
- The Family Research Council’s Perkins said Bush “has chosen an exceptionally well-qualified and impartial nominee for the Supreme Court.”
- Sekulow said Roberts is an “exceptional choice who will bring sound legal reasoning to the high court.”
- The AFA’s Fahling called Roberts “an extraordinary lawyer” who will be an “exceptional justice.”
- Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, said, “I applaud President Bush for keeping his promise to the American people to appoint judges who will interpret the law and not act as super legislators. Judge Roberts has an impeccable legal career. If there is going to be fight over the President’s choice for Supreme Court, this is a fight worth joining.”
- Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, said Roberts “has demonstrated his competency in addressing controversial issues with respect for the original intent of the Constitution. He has established a record of putting time-honored legal principles above judicial activism.”
- Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, said Roberts has shown strong conservative credentials with indications he will not uphold Roe v. Wade
“We appreciate President Bush being a man of his word by appointing a judge that will respect the right to life acknowledged by our nation’s founding documents,” said Newman. “We pray that Roberts will be swiftly confirmed.”
- Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, said, “John C. Roberts believes in the U.S. Constitution. That’s exactly the kind of judge I want to appear before when I bring my case to the Supreme Court for the third time later this year.”
- Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council, said the nomination is an “answer to the prayers of millions of Americans.”
- Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said he was “thrilled that the president has kept his promise by selecting a nominee who understands the importance of strictly adhering to the Constitution.”