Rights & Tolerance | July 20, 2005
Posting in "Comments
From Left Field" and "GordonTalk",
as Research for a Guest Appearance on "NewsRap",
Among Democratic Activists Nationwide, and
Quoted Online in "BBC
News World Edition"
There's no denying
it: John G. Roberts is no Robert Bork. Bork was too bitter a
pill for the Senate to swallow; Roberts is much sweeter. But no
amount of sugar coating can make the policies he has promoted
any less poisonous to the body politic.
Although the "conventional wisdom" is that he's a
"conservative, not an ideologue" -- with a big
intellect and a short paper trail (of opinions as an appeals
court judge, for just a couple years, by which we might
intelligently judge the judge) -- just consider his record in
the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Although he was
confirmed unanimously, by consent, for the appeals court (a
different job, not as profoundly affecting the rest of the
country as the position to which the second Bush has now
nominated him), even then Roberts
was opposed by the Alliance for Justice, Americans for
Democratic Action, Feminist Majority, Leadership Conference on
Civil Rights, NARAL Pro-Choice America, National Family Planning
and Reproductive Health Association, National Council of Jewish
Women, National Organization for Women, and the NOW Legal
Defense and Education Fund.
And what piqued the opposition of these leading progressive
groups? Well, according
to the well-documented (and oft-cited) report by the Alliance
for Justice, released in opposition to his elevation to the
appeals court (where he could do less damage than from the
Supreme Court bench...for perhaps the next 40 years):
"John G. Roberts...has 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
"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' America's 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
"He is a member of both the Republican National Lawyers'
Association and the National Legal Center For The Public
Interest. He serves on the Legal Advisory Council of the latter
group, which states as its mission the promotion of 'free
enterprise, private ownership of property, balanced use of
private and public resources, limited government, and a fair and
efficient judiciary,' euphemisms for hostility toward
environmental and worker protections and a commitment to an
ultra-conservative, anti-government legal agenda, including the
confirmation of President Bush's pro-corporate judges. In
addition, Mr. Roberts states in his Senate Judiciary Committee
questionnaire that he 'regularly participate[s] in press
briefings sponsored by the...Washington Legal Foundation,' a
rigidly right-wing legal organization that litigates on behalf
of corporate interests and wealthy property owners challenging
environmental and other regulations."
To be more specific, as
cited in the website of the National Organization for Women:
"As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts argued in a
brief before the Supreme Court that 'we continue to believe that
Roe was wrongly decided and should be overruled.
The Court's conclusion in Roe that there is a
fundamental right to an abortion...finds no support in the text,
structure, or history of the Constitution.'
"As Deputy Solicitor General, Roberts filed an amicus
curiae brief in NOW's case against Operation Rescue -- in
support of Operation Rescue, of course and in support of named
individuals who routinely blocked access to clinics...The brief
argued that the protestors' behavior did not discriminate
against women and that blockades and clinic protests were
protected speech under the First Amendment. The case helped us
push congressional passage of the Freedom of Access to Clinic
Entrances (FACE) Act.
"[Roberts was] Lead counsel for Toyota Motor
Manufacturing, KY, Inc. v. Williams. The case involved a
woman who was fired after asking Toyota for accommodations to do
her job after being diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The
court ruled that while this condition impaired her ability to
work, it did not impair her ability to perform major life
activities. Disability rights groups fear that this decision may
erode the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Filed an amicus brief...supporting a challenge to federal
affirmative action programs. He also argued against Title IX as
applied to the NCAA..."
For more up-to-date information on Judge Roberts, you might want
to read this
profile in Slate.
And of course, all of us await the Senate hearings, to get a
better sense of the person behind all these opinions.
Bush chose well by choosing a nominee as affable and
intellectual as John G. Roberts.
But no matter how well-packaged, these are the positions he has
upheld in his professional life.
Unless we are willing to endorse those positions -- and give
them the Supreme Court seal of approval for perhaps generations
to come -- we must expose and repudiate them in every public
forum, particularly in the upcoming Senate hearings.
Now is the time for Democrats -- and all progressive-minded
people -- to stand up and be counted.
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